Wildwood Trust is very disappointed that the Government has given a green light to new proposals to allow landowners to shoot badgers.
Wildwood Trust very much recognises Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) as a significant problem that causes hardship for many in the farming community, but believes that blaming badgers for bTB is just a scapegoat for the industry to avoid their responsibilities and avoid the cost of bTB control, while at the same time collecting huge subsidies from the taxpayer.
The badger debate has been around for a very long time, over 40 years, but behind the simplistic headlines that badger lovers and farmers are at loggerheads is a much more complex and subtle story, a story full of intrigue and vested interests competing for economic advantage.
A whole generation of farmers and 'country people' have grown up being told badgers are the main problem, but have forgotten the basic epidemiological science of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). The farming lobby have found it much easier to blame badgers than address the fundamental problems of cattle farming and the poor practices that have led to the epidemic of bTB in the British cattle herd."
A History of Cattle TB
Changes in intensive farming practices have also contributed to the epidemic, as cattle live in larger and more dense groups and spend more time in large sheds and stockades increasing the spread of bTB. The larger groups ensure that bTB that is carried by few animals sub-clinically acting as a reservoir for the bTB going unobserved and be allowed to flare up again. This is the process that the farming lobby are trying to blame badgers, without credible scientific evidence.
Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust's Chief Executive said:
"I myself have a degree in Medical Biochemistry and my knowledge of how TB works leads me to agree with the leading scientists in the UK that have repeatedly stated that a badger cull would not reduce the incidence of bovine TB. This leads me to the conclusion that the farming industry is using Badgers as an emotional tool to wrestle even more taxpayer's money to subsidize intensive agriculture; instead of spending it on protecting our environment."
I propose a simple 4 point plan to eradicate TB from cows in the UK:
1. Private insurance – reward the good and punish the bad
The present system of subsides rewards poor practice, the solution is to make the farming industry pay for their bad and illegal farming practices. The best way to achieve this is by the withdrawal of all government subsidy and compensation payments. Farmers could then privately insure themselves against the risk of herd breakdown due to TB. This free market solution would reward good farming practices by them having lower premiums. Farms with poor risk would be charged high premiums and those farmers who commit fraud by changing ear tags and other illegal practices would invalidate their insurance.
2. Reintroduction of stricter quarantine regulations on cattle movement
Detailed statistical analysis has shown that it is the movement of cattle from one farm to another that is by far the most important factor in the spread of TB*. The reintroduction of the strict quarantine measure abandoned in our past is key to control of bTB in the UK.
(*M. Gilbert, A. Mitchell, D. Bourn, J. Mawdsley, R. Clifton-Hadley & W. Wint Nature Vol 435|26 May 2005|doi:10.1038/nature0354)
3. Good credible science – put the funds used for badger killing into proper scientific study of disease propagation and vaccines
The current system of spending large amount of taxpayers' money on trials of shooting and gassing badgers at the expense of proper scientific study should stop. These funds should be redirected into proper microbiological research of the disease and its control by vaccination in cattle and badgers
4. Introduce economic changes to taxation and land tenure to promote less intensive agriculture.
Our present System of taxation vastly favours tax-dodgers, large landowners and investment in huge capital infrastructure .
By removing taxation on all wages and trade, from which we currently derive our income and removing the tax perks of buying large machinery and replacing that government revenue with a rent on the value of all land and a taxation of natural resources such as oil and minerals at source we would create many more rural and farming jobs and reduce intensive inputs of artificial cattle feeds. This rebalancing of our economic climate would allow less intensive farming to compete on fair terms with the modern industrial farming methods and reduce the spread of disease and poor quality animal husbandry.
Key facts of bTB
1. bTB is passed from animal to animal by aerosol in the form of close, mouth to mouth, transmission
2. bTB is a 'progressive' disease not a black and white issue – the idea of 'skin reactors', the current method of detection is very flawed
3. Cattle infect badgers but probably not the other way round (not one shred of real evidence exists for badger to cattle transmission, only inference conjecture)
4. bTB is dormant for many years (if not decades in some animals) and this is the real 'reservoir' of infection –there is no real evidence of wild animal to cattle transmission. The best data available, from the studies done in Belgium, show that wild animal transmission has no statistical influence on the epidemiology
5. The most probable culprit of the rise in bTB is when strict quarantine laws where relaxed 40 years ago, the bTB we see today is just the epidemiological statistical results of that relaxation, magnified by larger herd sizes (increases the chance a 'dormant carrier' infecting a herd) and greater densities in cattle sheds.
6. Many cattle diseases, not just bTB, have increased over that time, pointing the finger to industry practices and animal husbandry issues
7. Stress and 'unnatural' diet may (and I stress may as no real evidence) play a role in increasing the progression and expression of bTB in cattle
WHAT CAN YOU DO!
If you agree with my view point you can explain, in your own words, why killing badgers is not an acceptable solution to the TB problem. Ask the Government to base its policies solely on cattle controls and credible scientific research.
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