Our Northern correspondant, Matthew 2 has recollected for us a tale of 'biological warfare', waged by his father on tuberculous badgers prior to the Ministry clearances in 1953. He tells us that in the late 1930's and 40's it was common to run a goat (preferably a Billy) with a herd of cattle "to protect them" from badgers, and as a child can remember his father doing just that. He also remembers that their cattle did not get Tb.
The theory is that the goat would do what goats are famous for and kick seven bells out of any 'intruder' into the grazing area occupied by 'his' cattle. (Defra vets, RPA eartag inspectors, animal activists with wire cutters? We like that!!) In short, he would act as a the herd's guardian, sentinel, and protector.
We've heard of this tale in connection with the 'protection' of sheep flocks, where a goat (or an alpaca) has been introduced to deter foxes, badgers and dogs at lambing time, but how feasible is it in the context of disease control?
Imagine dear readers, Defra vets wearing 'green biological warfare' suits, (disposable, and complying with EU Waste Management rules of course - last seen when their occupants were slaughtering millions of cattle in FMD) delivering (Tb tested) goats onto cattle farms. It would be popular with Captain 'Birdseye' Ben, (please note, not 'Rear Admiral' Ben- some of our more imaginative readers seem to have a strange aversion to the Fisheries minister's nickname) who having been paid by the PAL piper, does not have to mention the word' badger' in the same breath as 'tuberculosis'. But what of this sorry, suffering creature? Well in the face of Capricorn on the warpath, his territory would be severely curtailed, his foraging limited and his numbers drastically cut. In short, as with Bradshaw's 'Fence them out' biosecurity advice, he starves.
And nobody gets their hands dirty.
Anything's got to be better than deluging the cattle farms with standstill notices, slaughter forms and endless 60 day '007' tests - who's going to get shot this month dearie? Defra's own predictions involve running up a bill with the Treasury of £2 billion over 10 years, doing absolutely nothing about the exposure of not only cattle but deer, domestic pets and ramblers to - tuberculosis.
Bring on the goats?