Thursday, May 20, 2010

A day is a long time in politics....

....and a week even longer. Before the election, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats committed to a targeted cull of badgers to end this crazy one sided polemic of slaughtering sentinel cattle, while ignoring the cause of up 90 percent of their problems.

But on Tuesday 18th May, Caroline Spelman, newly appointed Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in an interview with Farmers Guardian political editor, Alistair Driver, was less than enthusiastic about honouring this manifesto pledge.
She indicated that there was no guarantee the policy would be delivered, despite a pre-election Tory pledge to implement a badger cull if they were elected.
Asked if the Tory pledge on a badger cull still held, Ms Spelman said only that she had ‘not closed down any options’. Mrs Spelman was clear she wanted make up her own mind on the issue and was prepared to take her time in order to develop a ‘science-led policy’.
Mrs. Spelman said she wanted to monitor the effectiveness of the Welsh pilot badger cull, due to start in north Pembrokeshire this month, before deciding whether to pursue the policy in England.

(And how long is that lukewarm prevarication going to take, one may ask? The Honourable Lady's predecessor was going to 'await for the outcome of the Irish 4 County trial'. And when it successfully reported, he ignored it.)
“In all areas, I must take my time and be properly briefed,” she said, adding that the problem had got much worse since she was last involved in the agricultural industry more than a decade ago. “The fact that the disease is now much more widely penetrated over a much wider geographical area makes the decision more difficult and more complex. I believe in evidence-led policy making and I think we should wait to see how the Welsh get on,” she said.
But in curious twist to this comment (made by Mrs. Spelman on Tuesday 18th May) today, 20th May a press release was issued by her office which appeared less reticent. The Guardian has the strapline, "English Badgers set for Targeted culls" and describes how:
The new coalition agreement released by Downing Street today says: "As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis."

While Valerie Elliot of The Times seems to have cut and pasted a different offering from Caroline Spelman's department. Carrying the strapline "Minister blocks cull of badgers in bovine TB hotspots", The Times continues:
Plans for an emergency cull of badgers in hotspots of bovine TB are to be delayed while Caroline Spelman, the Rural Affairs Secretary, reviews the scientific evidence. Ministers will also await the outcome of a pilot cull in West Wales before embarking on such a policy in England.

The decision will disappoint many farmers, especially those in areas with highest incidence of the disease, such as the South West. A further review is surprising because the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats supported an emergency cull of badgers during the election campaign.
But while readers of The Times were digesting that with their organic muesli, the Minister of State, Jim Paice MP., speaking on the opening day of the Devon County show confirmed his commitment to a targeted cull of badgers in TB hotspots.
A cull of badgers is to be introduced in Devon and Cornwall to combat bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle. Farming Minister Jim Paice confirmed the news at the Devon County Show. The government says it is examining how best to roll out the policy, with a pilot vaccination scheme due to start across England this month.

So dear readers, make of that what you will. Wriggle room? More prevarication? More dead cattle - and alpacas, cats, dogs, sheep, pigs, goats and companion mammals?

As manifestos are torn up and our newly self-appointed Siamese Twins bulldoze their ideas through and over their party faithful, the only sure thing about politics is that when a politician's lips are moving - he's lying..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Current Conservative Party Rural Action website states

"The most pressing animal health problem in the UK today is bovine TB. Conservatives want to see healthy cattle living alongside healthy wildlife but in many parts of the country we have neither. The continued advance of bovine TB is costing taxpayers over £80 million a year and devastating farm businesses, but still the (Labour) Government fails to produce a credible package of measures to tackle the disease.

As a recent report by the Farm Crisis Network made clear, the disease is taking an enormous emotional, as well as financial toll, on farming families. We cannot continue to stand by as bovine TB claims some 40,000 cattle a year, destroys livelihoods, and makes further inroads into the public purse.

We will immediately implement a package of measures under the existing animal health budget to reduce the spread of bovine TB, including increased testing in high risk areas, continued development of vaccines, and validation of the polymerase chain reaction test to detect infected badger setts.

The development of vaccines is an important part of the long-term solution but we do not believe that steps to eradicate the disease can wait until 2014 whenan oral vaccine for badgers may be available. Indeed, the efficacy of vaccination is severely undermined in areas where infection in badgers is high.

We will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas of high and persistent levels of TB in cattle."