This is the operating protocol to which we referred in the previous posting as :
the most complicated, divisive strategy imaginable ...... but one for which farmers must bear the undefined cost and clearly defined publicity. It appears from the press this week, that questions which we asked at the time of NE's publication are now surfacing.
A bit late, but there are a lot of pages.
Farmers Guardian published a long piece on the 3rd January, with the strap line 'Badger cull ball now firmly in the farmers' court'. Or put another way, 'This is your badger cull, this is how it's going to operate, now get on with it - if you can. The article defines the key concerns of farmers, which are and always have been - the timing, the cost and their security.
Timing looks as if the two pilots will be late autumn this year (post Olympic fervour) so another year bites the dust, as do several thousand more cattle.
Costs we have explored several times. Jim Paice is sticking with his £1.4 million + 25% contingency fund up front for each 150 sq km patch. That equates to £920 per badger. But the NFU have done their own fag-packet calculations and arrived at around £20. Until that gap closes, then we agree with Anthony Gibson's comments (made before he was hoovered back into the NFU fold) and aired in the posting below.
Unless these proposals are radically altered in the consultation process – particularly in terms of reducing the financial and other risks to participants – I find it hard to envisage a badger-culling licence ever being issued.Quite so. But then licenses were never meant to be issued under these proposals and the costs relate to the operating protocol set out by NE and to which the 'industry' apparently agreed.
The security question is vital with the farming industry now at complete loggerheads with NE's proposals. FG reports that as far as the farming organisations go:
The names of farmers, landowners and contractors involved in the culling areas will not be made public. Neither will the exact timing of the culling operations.And that is the problem. In their proposals, NE even go so far as to describe a '28 day consultation period with maps posted on parish notice boards'. That is what farmers are being asked to sign up to. And this was hammered home by Jim Paice at the Oxford Farming Conference this week.
Natural England’s guidance, however, states it should ‘give the public an opportunity to comment on the licence applications’. This has become a key area of debate between the licensing agency and industry, which is intent on preserving the anonymity of those involved .
Mr. Paice reminded delegates that:
Natural England is required by law in each area to consult the public. We are in discussion with them about how precise the boundaries on those maps need to be,” he said.
“But I have to say as a countryman myself that once these trials are underway, the grapevines will work and I don’t think it will be possible to keep it secret.
“I am afraid farmers will have to take that into consideration when they decide whether to sign up. I don’t think there is anything more we can do in reality,” he told journalists, adding that he hopes this does not deter farmers from signing up.
If nothing else about this half cocked load of bureaucracy, that one paragraph is enough reason to hand control of a serious communicable zoonosis back to Animal Health, where it belongs. That organisation (or its predecessor, the State Veterinary Service) always held a general license and applied it under Section 10 of the Protection of Badgers Act when and if it was deemed necessary. Control of TB has no place in NE's portfolio. And it's no use at this late stage, the great and the good throwing a hissy fit when at last they are reading the small print of that which they've already agreed in principle. Or thinking they can change it.
This is bureaucracy gone mad, said NBA TB committee chairman Bill Harper. “Our concern is the maps used in the consultation will be too precise. We want them to be fairly general.”and the NFU's John Royle added that:
the NFU was still trying to persuade the agency ‘not to describe the areas involved exactly’.How exactly you do not describe areas, which by the terms of the NE license have to be displayed for a 28 day public consultation ? But as Jim Paice said at the Oxford Conference:
“I am afraid farmers will have to take that into consideration when they decide whether to sign up. I don’t think there is anything more we can do in reality,” he told journalists, adding that he hopes this does not deter farmers from signing up.Really? You could have fooled us.