Momentum builds up on Defra’s policy train, as it drives ahead towards Badger Cull station.
The badger’s Welsh name is ‘moch ddaear’ which I think means groundhog*. Oddly enough there might be a linguistic link to the American groundhog, which makes me think of the film ‘Groundhog Day’ in which a news reporter relives the same day over and over again, immortally.
That’s irrelevant, of course, because there is definitely no disheartening repetition when it comes to the badger cull debate.
A brief history of British Badgers
Badgers were once very popular as food (today demoted to being roadkill cuisine) but like us they were excellent hunter-gatherers, so badgers would have occupied the dual role of competitor and prey. As we started to really dig agriculture they didn’t really keep up… and their rather backward, living-on-the-edge habits just became boring and annoying. They were acting like some kind of itinerant native people. Badgers regained some cool around the time we finished off our last wolves, making the badger the scariest wild animal in the British Isles.. and badgers became the favoured well hard contestants for baiters who used dogs to rip them to shreds in the name of sport. Then a book about an arrogant toad cast the badger as a major character, and they became lovable. That might have been a big influence on the decision to protect them from the sports fans, with new laws which made both badgers and their homes protected by law.
Seriously – what’s the balanced view?
To obtain a BBC-style balanced view, let’s take the poles of the debate and juxtapose them.
- To those who herald the groundhog as holy: whatever the science, killing badgers is wrong, and interferes with the balance of nature.
- To those who believe there are simply too many badgers: bTB is just one more reason to restore the balance of nature.
Why is the science so slow?
‘Country people’ understand what’s what and if you ask around it’s not long before somebody will tell you there are too many badgers. That logically means that they ought be brought back down to the correct density – which is all defined, of course… somewhere.
Anyway it’s common sense.
Unfortunately the policy makers couldn’t risk the embarrassment of making a decision which apparently contradicts the established science, policy and law, until they see new scientific evidence to show them that killing a decent number of badgers each year is the best action. Researchers are taking their jolly time gathering the evidence which ‘country people’ could have told them all about, down the pub.
Jim’s clear sightedness
Jim Paice, the Agriculture Minister, has seen through the haze. Why the call for fresh data before making a change? Jim has shown us all that you don’t need more science. All you need is a new policy. The evidence is there… to be reinterpreted.**
Paice says: “It’s clear that the current approach has failed to stop the spread of this terrible disease. We need to take urgent action to halt its spread.”
“Last year 25,000 head of cattle were slaughtered and it cost the taxpayer £63 million in England.”
So there you have it. Before they go ahead with this policy reversal the government would like to hear your views. The consultation closes on 8 December 2010.
Background information at www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/tb-control-measures/
and consultation papers at www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/tb-control-measures/index.htm
*(Or is it Earth Pig? Definitely not Moon Pig.)