Sunday, September 06, 2015

The longest of long grass?

Just as one small area of Dorset is licensed to do mathematically fraught cull of badgers this autumn, a new consultation - [link] appears from Defra. This closes on September 25th, so a short time frame, with we note, Environmental and Animal Welfare Campaigners at the top of a long list of consultees.

Tackling zoonotic Tuberculosis, a Grade 3 pathogen - where ever it is found - is not an option for Defra. They are signatories to International agreements which seek to eradicate this disease, to protect human health. And that includes wildlife, if it is found there.

Hence the deafening silence - [link] on this technology which allows the infected badger group to be identified with stunning accuracy. Far better to set Badgerists against livestock farmers, in a parody of the Roman arena and let them fight it out. This of course, after giving the former, the tools with which to find their prey - [link]

So what is asked in this latest wheeze which may invoke yet another delve into Queen May's pockets for a Judicial Review and  kick the control of badgers with zTB into the long grass?

This consultation is a short questionnaire which seeks to reduce the minimum area for a map drawn population control badger cull from 150 sq km to 100 sq km. Now that was the size of the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial zones, and one which John Bourne opined was too small. Subsequently the benefits outweighed the inevitable problems with occurred from cage trapping an infected population for 8 nights only, annually if you were lucky. Thus, hanging on these throw away remarks, the present cull areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire being three times that size and of longer duration.

 Together with a smaller minimum size, Defra also propose to increase the amount of landowner participation required to be accessible for culling to '90 per cent of land to be accessible, or within 200m of accessible land'. That is a complicated mathematical formula which takes no account of the presence of disease at all, and may in fact be more difficult to achieve in practice than the previous 70 per cent requirement. Who knows?

There is also a proposal to increase the time 'allowed' for culling but with Natural England giving itself the right to stop the cull at any time it thinks fit. They explain:
We want to know what you think about our proposed licence changes. They will provide more flexibility in the control of badger populations in areas where bovine TB is a problem and will increase the potential to achieve disease control benefits. The proposals would apply to applications to Natural England for a licence from 2016 onwards.
Of course if Defra used the research - [link] into the identification of infected setts, for which it the taxpayer has paid, then all of this long running farce would have to stop. And it would, as once an infected area and group of animals is identified, by international statute, Defra have to act on that information. They have no choice.

 On superficial examination, these proposals seek to tweak a flawed policy, which in turn was based entirely on a politically corrupt - [link] concept.  And our response will reflect that.

We would also question the roll of an environmental organisation such as Natural England in the licensing of what is ultimately an obligation to public health. And that concept could be explored further later this year.