The Tb crisis in cattle farming has not escaped Private Eye's Muckspreader column, (Jan 10th 2005) from which we quote:
"This year, TB will cost government and taxpayers more money than it has promised towards the tsunami disaster. The truth is that our ministers are getting into the most appalling mess over the crisis. And it has now been made worse by the findings of research in Ireland, which show that the (UK) government could solve the problem within months, if only it had the honesty and courage to do so".
Honesty? courage? in a politician?... Muckspreader has more faith than me.
"The problem is that as Britains's badger population explodes out of control, so does the incidence of TB both in the badgers themselves and in the cattle they live among. Before 1982 a policy of gassing infected badger (setts) was so successful that TB in Britains cattle was all but eliminated" *
*Less than 100 herds under restriction and 686 cattle slaughtered .
"In 1981 badgers became a 'protected' species. Gassing was outlawed. The badger population rose rapidly, and TB rose to epidemic levels, in direct parallel with its spread among cattle. As ever more farmers were forced to kill their infected cattle, so ever rose the bill for compensation.*
* Over 5000 herds have been or are at present under TB restriction in 2004 and 24,000 cattle dead.
"In 1997 Labour came to power, aided by a £1million donation from the Political Animal Lobby, totally committed to 'saving' badgers. The MAFFia's top advisor Prof. John Krebs, confirmed the link between TB in badgers and cattle. But so terrified was the government of taking action that Krebs was asked to spin matters out by carrying out an interminable series of 'trials' just to make sure that the link existed.
By last year crisis point had been reached. As the bill soared ever higher, government projections showed that by 2014 the total cost to the taxpayer will have reached £2billion. As Tory agriculture spokesman Owen Paterson deluged the government with record numbers of questions, the government desperately played for time. The minister, Ben Bradshaw extended the Krebs trials to 2008, and also said we must wait for findings of important research being carried out in Ireland".
"These have now been published and they are devastating."
Devastating?. We would say 'predictable' and a carbon copy of all other 'trials' . A surprise then?. Not.
Muckspreader continues: " In all four counties across Ireland where badgers were culled, the incidence of TB in cattle has plummeted. In Donegal to only 4 percent of its previous level. Yet so emotive has the issue of culling badgers become that even the Irish scientists feel forced to conclude that, although it would be 'feasible to control TB in cattle by eliminating badgers, it would not for legal or moral reasons be 'viable'."
"This single sentence in the report was seized on by Elaine King of the National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) as supporting her view that killing badgers is out of the question"
No surprises there then.
""Apart from the moral and political implications of such a strategy", she says " its effects would not be large enough to warrant the massive economic cost".
As we have already pointed out, the lovely Elaine (Battersea's very own Boadicea) also said in her press release following the Irish result " This trial suggests that badger culling only reduces TB in cattle if every single badger is exterminated".
So the link is there then? Take out infected badgers and cattle TB just - disappears.
Muckspreader concludes : " Mr. Bradshaw must stick to his existing policy, even though it has lamentably failed. In other words we have no alternative but to foot that £2 billion bill, paying out more each year than Tony Blair is giving to the tsunami victims, to achieve nothing. The real irony is that, if government gave out licenses to farmers to cull infected badgers on their land they would do the job for free, to save their cattle - and a great many badgers would be saved from a lingering and painful death".
There are more votes in a dead badger than a dead cow, Muckspreader.
And never one to let a dead badger (or a sick, abscessed, mangy tubercular one) get in her way, we expect 'Boadicea' to gallop into print with a reply to this article and will post in due course.