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It’s not a good year for farmers. With exceedingly wet conditions (even for British records) crop harvests are at a low and fruit and veg prices are at a high. Beekeepers are reporting a 72% drop in harvested honey and bees are on the life-support equipment that is sugar syrup.
So you can understand their anger with the execution of 26,000 cattle after they were infected with Bovine TB from urine and faeces last year.
It’s only common sense that there would be some suggestions on how to tackle the problem then, and of course, a conflict of opinion. We either vaccinate the badger population or cull them. Treatment or murder? Life or death? The Government has opted to provide a pilot badger cull, drawing in cross-spectrum criticism whilst regional Wildlife Trusts will pilot a vaccination scheme. Gloucestershire and Somerset will play host to the 6-week cull trial, whereas Shropshire and Cheshire will pilot vaccinating. I’m certain there’s an obvious better option of the two.
Humanely, there is little defence of a badger cull, a process which simply involves hunting wild badgers and shooting them indiscriminately. Expected to cost the taxpayer around £100,000 a year, the process is supposed to use less time and resources than a previous vaccination scheme which still resulted in £500m being spent to control the disease over the last 10 years. So, it is plausible that the cull proposal would be massively beneficial to farmers’ livestock and the taxpayer alike.
But is this an argument of quality or quantity? Why do people buy organic foods in the supermarket? Is it hypocritical to be using these ethical food sources whilst supporting the cruel act of a cull of another species?
Of course vaccination has its own costs and complications, but surely that’s something you would sacrifice and admit and then get on with it, for the sake of both cattle and badger? And surely life itself is invaluable – we shouldn’t underestimate that. Besides, experts argue that the cull which actually increase the chances of TB being transferred from badger to cattle, that it will cost more in the long run, it’s inhumane and that there is no concrete proof that the TB is always directly transferred from badger to cattle, rather than cattle to cattle.
I hope that this pilot project proves unsuccessful and ultimately costly, or better, that they decide to cancel it and continue on the vaccination program.
After all, Scotland never culled their badger population and they were declared TB free in September 2009, so we can certainly achieve that same result.