Yesterday, a smattering of MPs made the effort to put the case for the management of an acknowledged and proven wildlife source of zoonotic tuberculosis in England, during a 3 hour debate in the House of Commons.
After spending a productive afternoon taking a metaphorical strimmer to a collection of overgrown weeds (which could have been childish and destructive Members of Parliament) I found the debate very bland. Lacking in much passion at all - except for badgers and their associated political science.
Concentrating on the fact that although we are not the only country to have zoonotic tuberculosis (M. bovis) established in wild mammals, when this disease feeds up into sentinel tested cattle, we are alone in the developed world in ignoring it.
The results of that one sided policy, is that in Great Britain, our statistics for control of this grade 3 pathogen are the worst in the developed world, putting trade at some risk. But human health at considerable risk.
Owen mentioned his visit to Australia, and compared our efforts at eradicating reactor cattle, sheep and alpacas with that of the Republic of Ireland, and New Zealand, who take a wider view of the problem this bacterium causes. He also touched on emerging problems in countries within the European Union, which we have begun to trace recently
Although some honourable Members failed to see this relevance of a combined action on mycobacterium bovis, preferring the far easier target of England's cattle, of note are NI's Jim Shannon and Sheryll Murray (SE Cornwall) who put their points well.
But possibly the most succinct speech came late in the day from Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnor) who observed:
One thing that we are certain about is that badgers infected with TB can pass it on to cattle, but there are other methods of infection. When there are diseased badgers in fields where cattle are grazing, there is the opportunity for the disease to be transmitted. Although we are cleaning up the disease in cattle, as long as there are infected badgers where they are grazing, the disease can spread. We have heard a lot about increased biosecurity, but the same people advocate natural forms of cattle production—in other words, grazing. As far as I know, there are no biosecurity measures that can keep badgers and cattle apart when cattle are grazing.Predictably, the destructive base of modern, modelled 'political' science, links to which can be found in this posting was ignored. The motion was defeated by a substantial margin.
But why in the 21st century we should be having a debate at all, about control of a Grade 3 zoonotic pathogen, could have been the subject for this debate. The consequences for our MP's continuing political protection of M. bovis have already proved deadly and profound.