Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Weasel Words and the Sins of Omission.

The 'weasel words' are described by a contributer to Western Morning News - who roundly takes to task the spokesman for the Badger Trust, Trevor Lawson, suggesting that he is "straw clutching against the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the government could be at last reaching the obvious conclusion - on the basis of cost if nothing else - that the vicious circle of bovine Tb infection between badgers and cattle, or as Trevor Lawson would have it, cattle and badgers, is broken."

The writer then describes a visit to an Exmoor farm, slaughtered out (or 'depopulated' as Defra likes to sanitise the procedure of culling a whole herd) after a devastating outbreak of Tb. The report issued by SVS confirmed "the cattle had become infected with tuberculosis from a non-bovine source - a politically correct "code" for ... badgers. Devastatingly for the farmer, his family and his business, the SVS report went further, suggesting that restocking would be futile because any cattle brought in, however "clean" (free of disease) would soon be stricken by the disease (bTb) from the same "non-bovine source".

The piece concludes: "Nobody is "waging war" on badgers, Mr. Lawson. We like them, but we would like them to be healthy.......[ ].......It is not the badger's fault any more than it is the cattle's , farmer's or anyone else's - it is a fact of life, an intractable disease which can ONLY be tackled in the round of its vicious circle.
See the full piece ;

The 'Sins of Omission' are to be found quietly buried, and certainly are only selectively used by the vociferous Mr. Lawson in Recycled-Rosie's-paper, a link to which may be found ;

"Although the suspension of cattle testing during the FMD epidemic was associated with increased M.bovis infection prevalence in badgers, (It was? who said? Did you know that the badgers moved house when the cattle were slaughtered out over hundreds of acres? No, I thought not. Sorry, readers we digress.) .. this increase would not be expected to undermine the beneficial effects of badger culling on cattle Tb incidence. Indeed, because high prevalence was recorded after FMD in both culled and unculled badger populations, the expected benefit of removing badgers by culling could, if anything, have been increased."

The paper continues that their results illustrate the need to consider all transmission routes in planning control policies for multihost pathogens.

Err yes. It is also necessary to have a culling procedure which actually achieves something other than the dispersal of its target - but let that pass. Trevor Lawson certainly missed out that bit in his high profile rant, didn't he?

Meanwhile, our Midlands Matthew has suggested a novel way of bringing the Badger Trust into the loop of responsibility for disease control. Anytime now we as farmers expect to get landed with a 'disease levy', reportedly set at around £3.45 per animal traded. This is Defra's weasely attempt at the much vaunted 'partnership' and 'shared responsibility' it keeps banging on about. But in the last couple of posts, the level of infection of a highly dangerous pathogen, is variously set at up to '28 percent' of road kill badgers found in the Monmouthshire.

So, how about, our colleague suggests, a devolved and shared responsibility on levies too? We aren't greedy, so how about £1 head on every badger resident in the UK? Annually. Yup, that would be 'shared responsibility' - in the round.

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