Friday, December 23, 2005

Defra's Christmas Recipes

Written in October, published on the Defra website to be consumed over Christmas, can be viewed here

Editor's warning: Some descriptions in this file may be found offensive.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bradshaw and the Berne Convention

Described in our post below - or linked courtesy of the Link Fairy - are 3 options for the control of badgers by Defra, or farmers, or farmers and Defra. All are subject to a high profile 'consultation' excercise taking 3 months. But how legal would it be?

Our mole Matthew has been digging into the can do's and cannot do's of Bern, and as far as we can see, the Minister's options are not possible under this convention.
However as always, we stand corrected if wrong. Hey, we're only farmers for goodness sake!

Britain signed up to the convention in 1982. It was amended in 2002.

Appendix 111 / Annex 111 gives a listing of Protected status species, updated 2002, in which meles meles - our friendly neighbourhood stripey badger- is listed, in the section Carnivora.

But since 1st March 2002, in 'Prohibited means and methods of killing, capture and other forms of exploitation', Bern lists an extensive - if not inventive - array which cannot be applied to said protected species, listed in Annex 111.

Appendix IV / Annexe IV :
Live animal decoys,
Tape recorders (do they think we would strangle the target with the tape?)
Electrical devices, Artificial light souces (night sights?)
Mirrors and other dazzling devices (Bradshaw?)
Devices for illuminating targets (If you mean a torch, why not say so?)
Sighting devices for night shooting
Explosives (except for whales)
Nets and Traps (if applied to large scale or non selective capture or killing)
Poisoned or anaesthetic bait
Gassing or smoking out
Semi automatic or automatic weapons capable of holding more than two rounds of ammunition, Aircraft (???!!)
Motor vehicles - in motion.

So what options does that leave?

We cannot use aircraft, so that leaves motor vehicles but only if they're stationary. Lamping with night sights is a no no, particularly if the shotgun or rifle has more than 2 rounds in the chamber, so no machine guns. No snares (did Ireland sign up to this?) No gassing or even trapping as part of a non selctive cull.

Well I guess we could ask them (politely) to leave, or creep up behind them and garotte, with the tape recorder's tape. Or we could just say 'boo' and pretend they've gone.......

So exactly what is our Minister of Fisheries' " Consultation" all about?

As we said, he intends to take the quid, but under Bern could he even think about delivering the pro quo ?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Defra takes the 'Quid'...

... but shows no sign of delivering the 'pro quo'.

'Quid pro quo' : something given or taken as equivalent to another.

In the Industry Strategy on bTb worked out representatives of veterinary groups, SVS and cattle farmers, the proposals came as a package of measures, all of which were to be instigated concurrently and parallel. The cattle industry reluctantly accepting the high profile (but of little disease control) pre movement testing - which even our Ben accepts would miss 60 percent of cases of bTb. And believing that providing the wildlife source was tackled in a meaningful way and numbers of cattle slaughtered fell dramatically, then the proposed flat rate valuation could and should be enhanced once again by farmer's own insurance in quite a short space of time. That to go hand in hand, or quid pro quo with decisive actions on wildlife sources of the disease - and all at the same time. Concurrent.

So what has our Minister of Fisheries and Conservation announced?

February sees both cattle measures introduced. Pre-movement testing on the 20th. and tabular valuation on the 1st. And the wildlife? A consultation with options designed to scare the badger groups witless and further polarise opinions - and options.

One may say the Minister proposes to take the quid, and has not delivered the pro quo. Neither we suspect has he any intention of so doing.

Granted his appearance on the media was designed to appease the farmers. He was pressing - as they say - all the right buttons. But the bottom line is that the cattle industry faces costly and restrictive practices while the reservoir in wildlife flourishes unchecked.

We have pointed out before on this site that cattle farmers in areas of high tb incidence are unable to get insurance cover for the disease. The proposed tabular valuation is based only on 'market value', which means exactly that. Draft sales, specialist sales, breed sales and private pedigree sales are not included. So is just £500 / head a good enough incentive for farmers to do Defra's work for them? We hear that the wildlife teams are being stood down, and this week CSL (Central Science Laboratory) are advertising for applicants 'with 5 GCSE's' (sociology, media studies and IT?) to count badger setts. Oh and just to really stuff the job, Defra have no intention of using PCR technology to identify infected badger setts - even though they could - if they wanted to.

John Bourne has scrambled an interim report together, which delivers exactly as predicted - not a lot. Well what did you expect using cage traps, 57 percent of which were 'interfered with' and 12 percent 'disappeared'? That combined with an arbitary line as an 'edge' to the RBCT zone which moved in the duration, including different farms halfway through the 'trial', and thus excluding others, and encouraged the chaos of perturbation at its 'soft' and fluid perimeter. All this they knew at the start - and were reminded in spades. You really couldn't make it up. And they call this 'science'?

More on:

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Talking the Talk

Yesterday in Parliament, Geoffrey Cox MP secured a debate on bovine tb.

MP's of all persuasions questioned Ben Bradshaw on 'policy', and pointed out that his promised 'Autumn' statement was - well, a bit late for this year anyway. But then we've been used to prevarication for several years now. Do leopards change their spots? The Minister indicated that once again he was going to delay any announcement until John Bourne's interim report on the RBCT was published. He told the House that it was at present being peer reviewed, and that when the results were made public "the reason for his delaying would be made clear".

While not wishing to prejudge any momentous ministerial announcement, likely to be made on the last minute of this parliamentary session before Mr. Bradshaw goes off on his Christmas jollies, we can sense a problem here.

As Shadow minister, Owen Paterson MP pointed out, previous parliamentary questions (archived on this site) have extracted from the minister the efficiency - or not of Krebbs attempts to cull badgers.

Despite John Bourne's explanations to participating farmers that in both Reactive and Proactive areas the RBCT would: "Cull all badgers", the reality was that 57 percent of the traps were 'interfered with' and 12 percent disappeared. We have explored the maths of this before. But briefly from a target of 100 percent of badgers, in some cases the RBCT managed as little as 31 percent, which is confirmed by PQ's. At best cage trapping without badger activist intefernce only accounts for 80 percent of target.

However dear reader, it is for this (peer reviewed) 'work' that the minister is delaying his announcement. And it is on the basis of the RBCT 'results' that any decision to cull tb infected badgers will be made.

'Work' it has created for some. But the cost to the taxpayer, wildlife in general and badgers in particular, cattle and our country's reputation and disease status is - incalculable.
And 'science' it is not.

The minister has for long enough 'talked the talk', will he now 'walk the walk'? Not if his decision is based on the RBCT he won't.

The debate can be seen here.