... in charge of a henhouse?
A rhetorical question, but it appears that this is what Defra have done with allocating the quango known as 'Natural England' control of the two pilot badger culls, which our Secretary of State is 'strongly minded' to allow.
We explored 'Natural England's somewhat un-natural armlock over this project, with links to their various policy protocols in this post.
But today, Farmers Guardian publish an overview of this organisation's views on the concept of controlling tuberculosis in badgers by culling. And it is illuminating. NE state that it has
a ‘low level of confidence that the predicted benefits can be delivered consistently’ under the proposed policy.But while FG's strap line illustrates a decidedly luke warm response to the idea, it fails to point out that via its overall responsibility for monitoring any cull, Natural England may dictate both its progress and outcome.
“This stems from the lack of evidence that a farmer-led cull can replicate what has only previously been undertaken by government (and even then on a smaller scale) and the complexity of the regulatory regime required to ensure successful outcomes,”
The full consultation response from Natural England can be found in this pdf.
A comment from fellow architect of this cull, NFU's Kevin Pearce on his blog;
We have known from day one that many within Natural England have strong reservations about this policy. However, what worries me more is that Natural England is an advisory body that provides advice to ministers. This submission makes public their advice to ministers before the end of the consultation period. There can be only one reason for this; Natural England is playing a political game trying to influence wider opinion before ministers have had chance to consider all the responses to the consultation.
Perhaps it’s time to recreate a wildlife unit within Defra to deal with this issue because it’s clear Natural England do not believe in the policy, don’t want to do it and will do everything it can to frustrate the proper process.
Quite. And that much has been clear to us for some considerable time.
And our opinion? Why would Defra put a fox in charge of the hen house other than have its plan 'designed to fail'?
Control of a notifiable zoonosis does not belong with Natural England. It should be returned back where it belongs, with AHVLA.