Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Veggie-Benn at the NFU conference

Addressing the NFU conference yesterday, the BBC report that Defra Minister Hillary Wedgwood-Benn announced he would make no decision on Britain's appalling Tb situation "until the EFRA Committee delivered its report".

As GB's bTB figures last year rocketed towards 8 percent of herds under movement restriction and with some areas having a quarter of their herds affected, the Minister said that he had to make his decision on "science, impact of proposed measures, practicality and public acceptibility".

On the first point, he ignored the Chief Scientist's side swipe overview-which-came-to-a-different-conclusion, and plumped for the ISG's work. You remember, the ten year 'trial', whose chairman openly boasted had been steered from the beginning knowing that there was one conclusion it was not allowed to reach?

Benn also seemed unaware of the work from Stirling University, released last week, paid for, one assumes, by his Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs? which laid the root cause of 75 per cent of outbreaks of bTb in GB at the striped paws of - badgers. Not any badger of course, but grossly and endemically infected with tuberculosis badgers - as described in Parliamentary Questions by his predecessor in the hot seat, Ben Bradshaw.

A BBC report of the speech, is headed "Farmers heckle Benn over Tb plans"

What plans? He doesn't appear to have one - apart from an annual cull of sentinel tested cattle that is. The same old chestnut of 'public acceptability" was waved, to avoid making a decision on the control of a disease that is 100 per cent a governmental responsibility. And a disease whose spillover will increasingly and inevitably impact on 'the public' who, like his predecessors he is content to use as his ministerial shield.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has been heckled by farmers after he suggested culling badgers may not be the answer to preventing TB in cattle. Mr Benn was told to "stop waffling" as he pledged to take a decision based on science, its impact and practicality".
National Farmers' Union President Peter Kendall urged Mr Benn to make the "right decision" on culling badgers and to show political leadership in explaining to the public the "absolutely devastating" effect of the disease. (Forget cattle Peter - explain about the cats, dogs, free range pigs, llamas and children - all susceptible to tuberculosis, and more 'valuable' as vote fodder) He urged Mr Benn not to adopt a "nimtoo" approach - "not in my term of office".

Mr Benn said the call would be made "on my watch", based on the science, impact of proposed measures, the practicalities and its "public acceptability". and it was the latter comment which roused his audience....

To boos from the audience he said: "Many of you don't think that's a factor governments should take into account but I have to take it into account alongside the other three tests."
The BBC comments "While cattle farmers (and the Treasury??) may support a cull, a government consultation of more than 47,000 people suggested that more than 95% of people opposed it". Aah yes. That would be the consultation in which the RSPCA was later found found by Advertising Standards Authority to have offered misleading and incorrect' information? Yup, that'd be the one. The BBC nailed its colours to the mast this week with a David Attenborough TV special on the Secret Lives of Badgers. Repeated to allow for the sunday afternoon consumption. They didn't show one dying of Tb though.
One angry farmer shouted that the government had done nothing to tackle bovine TB in 10 years, adding: "Stop waffling." Answering his heckler, Mr Benn said: "I'm not waffling. I'm going to take a decision and we're going to have to find a way forward."
And that won't involve culling the wildlife reservoir of bovine tuberculosis. The Minister then announced that he was awaiting instructions. He was:

...awaiting a report by the Environment Food and Rural Affairs select committee, due within weeks, before making a decision.
NFU Chairman, Peter Kendall said it was "disappointing" Mr Benn referred only to the ISG report rather than one by former chief scientist Sir David King, which drew different conclusions.

No doubt Mr. Benn will also be awaiting the result of his department's 'Inquiry into the Inquiry', which went to tender last month

Anytime in the next ten years will do Minister.


Anonymous said...

Bovine TB has increased by 13% in just one year in the Republic of
Ireland, despite the most sustained programme of badger extermination
ever undertaken in Western Europe. Yet
in Northern Ireland, where no badgers are being killed, the disease
continues to decline.

Matthew said...

Anon 959.

We covered this in a posting in July.

'Extermination' is emotive claptrap. The sensitivities of the Bern Convention have to be complied with and the R of I is at pains to target and limit its culls to a thorough and robust 'reactive' type of operation - as they explain in our posting. The R of I's use of snares is not something this site supports for many reasons. Apart from the 'indiscriminate subject' problem, they may cause the chaos of perturbation within a group of badgers that the RBCT caused - with predictible results.

Scroll through the comments below that posting and you will see (perhaps) an answer to your point on Northern Ireland. The 'cattle measures' of which you speak, have only recently been enforced in N.I, while England and Wales have had them for a long while. From the DARD website it would appear that the drop in cases (from a high of over 9 % of herds in 2002 - 2004) has now plateaued. As would be expected as herd restrictions started to bite. But the DARD graphs show that in the latter part of 2007, the trend line had started to turn upwards again.

As we have said many times, when the cattle are regularly tested and slaughtered as reactors, there is only so far this can go when a wildlife reservoir is ignored. N.I has possibly reached this point.

England and Wales reached it in 1997.

Anonymous said...

Leaving out the 'emotive claptrap', bovine TB has still increased by 13% in just one year in the Republic of
Ireland, despite badger culling.

Anonymous said...

Presently, there is a four-year plan in situ to attempt to cull all badgers in 20 per cent of the country that yields 50 per cent of reactor (infected) cattle.

Wildlife Treaties, like the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (The Bern Convention) are powerless to intervene because of the Government’s assertion that it is culling for scientific research.

Matthew said...

Anon 9.40

We think the Anon who followed you has explained the situation in R of I rather well.

As they said in our July posting, their policy is strictly 'reactive culling, and that is limited to hotspots. Or as Anon 9.45 said "in the 20 per cent of the country, that yields 50 percent of the reactors".

In the other 80 percent of the Republic, badgers are not touched unless a hot spot develops - we are told.

And that, Irish farmers tell us, has now happened, with the increase in cases mainly limited to areas previously considered low incidence.

So, the Bern Convention is a bit like Japan's whale fleet - useless if breaches are in the guise of science? Didn't know that.

jo said...

If anonymous looks further at Trevor Lawson's press release, from which he is quoting, he will see that, though the number of reactors has increased by roughly 13%, the number of infected herds has dropped by 1,638 to 120,654. It would be interesting to know where these herds are in relation to the badger culling.