Sunday, June 03, 2007

Miliband, badgers and bTb.

We are grateful for a link to an article published in today's Sunday Times which came in as a comment on a posting below.

In a governmental bout of 'testing the water', Environment minister David Miliband is said to be about to "endorse an independent study to be published next week, which concludes that large-scale culling would help stem the spread of tuberculosis in cattle."

The Times reports Miliband as saying:
"In areas where bovine Tb is endemic, it is clear that badgers play a key role in transmitting disease"

Government knew that when they endorsed the RBCT. In fact not only Krebs, but all previous reports on badgers / bTb have said it, so the point is...?

The final report of the ISG, due out mid June is expected (the Times predicts) to suggest that "large scale culling, involving many farmers could be beneficial", although "organisationally challenging and [would] involve significant cost to the farming industry".

The end of the badger 'dispersal trial' would also remove the need for the diminutive John Bourne's hissy fits over tuberculous badger control outside his 'dispersal trial' areas, thus leaving the way open for the Protection of Badgers Act to operate as parliament intended, and not at the whim of the chairman of the ISG.

South West newspaper, Western Morning News carries the same piece but with added wrappings. Quotes from farmers whose herds have been affected by bTb, the NFU and veterinary scientists.

Farmer Richard Haddock commented, "David Miliband and the scientists ( 'Scientists' the ISG?? err, yes if you say so - ed) behind this report are now recognising that the only way to stop bTb spreading is to take out sick setts of badgers. We have worked hard to explain to the public that we don't want to kill healthy animals, but also we don't want to se more badgers die a slow and painful death. We want the cull to be supervised by the government so the general public know that we are doing it correctly".

And thereby hangs the problem. "Government supervision". Not from that pointy place on the Thames, nor from the civil service Tb hamsters trundling away in the bowels of Defra's London headquarters. Realistic 'supervision' can only come from the experienced Wildlife team operatives, operating out of Aston Down in Glos., and Polwhele in Cornwall and under direction from local AHO offices.

That Defra need such overall control of any policy on bTb,is obvious. But as we reported here last spring they sacked most of the Wildlife teams capable of operating or even overseeing such a policy. Hence the veiled comment in the Times report, (aka John Bourne?) that any such policy would "involve significant cost to the farming industry".

We read this that 'farmers' are on their own. And if they succeed then government will say it was preMT wot did it. But if they fail ... well it'll be all our fault. Either way 'government' look to be on the point of handing over to individual farmers via a licensing system, control of a serious, notifiable zoonotic disease - the first country in the western world to do so.

And we call that a shameful abdication of responsibility.

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