Okay so it's nearly June, and the planned badger cull is getting uncomfortably close. However I am pleased to report back to you all of a full house at last night's public meeting in Dorchester at the corn exchange. I myself went along, as I wanted to collect some facts...and facts I did collect!
I was overjoyed to meet dairy farmer Steve Jones once again, creator of www.not-in-this-farmers-name.com as he told a whole hall of people of his experiences in the industry. He did make one specific point during his speech that I found to be very interesting indeed: "All mammals can carry Bovine TB". Having never thought of this point before myself, I decided to do some research and true enough, this is the case. They are called 'spillover hosts' . Here is a statement taken from http://www.southwest-tbadvice.co.uk/tb-facts "The range of animals susceptible to bTB infection is very broad. All land mammals are susceptible to infection to varying degrees, depending on the exposure level, innate resistance, predominant immunological pathways and type of husbandry." Then going on to say "Spillover hosts may in turn be either ‘dead-end’ hosts (if the incidence and pathology of the disease indicates they play no significant role in its onward transmission) or ‘amplifier’ hosts if they appear capable of increasing the prevalence of TB in livestock or other species." Isn't it interesting what you find on the internet? Something else that appears to be a problem? Bad animal husbandry. Lameness is up (DEFRA's own statistics) and cleanliness appears to be down in some areas, not all, but enough.
So next on the list is Gavin Grant, RSPCA's Chief Executive who also had some really rather valid points to make backed up by strong statistics. The first of these being about the scientific study that this cull is based on. After they had been culled, the badgers were all tested. It turns out the vast majority (80-85%) of them were entirely free of TB. Also, of the 15% or so that were carriers of the disease, only 1 in 3 were actually infectious. So with a little bit of Maths, we can work out that roughly only 5% of the badgers slaughtered were actually at risk of infecting the cattle in the first place. Okay so onto point number two, the perturbation effect. This is basically when the badger would flea the area it is in so as to avoid danger (people shooting other badgers around them). As you can imagine, this could mean that infected badgers travel onto farmland where TB is not yet a problem and infect it. Now, Lord Krebs' studies show that the longer the culling period, the more the badgers scattered. This was carried out through the method of cage trapping, where as the Government plan to use free shooting, which is already far less inconspicuous and more likely to spark fear into the surrounding badgers, but also over a period of 6 WEEKS. It does not take a genius to see the fundamental problems of this idea.
And finally, Dr Brian May made a speech about his feelings on the cull. He began by making the point that they intend to shoot the badgers with long distance rifles, at night, in the dark, without telling us where they will be doing it. Hmm. Also, if they happen to lose one of their intended pilot cull zones, then they will come over to Dorset and begin here, a fact that hasn't been overly publicised. The next point he went on to make was about the suitability of our minister for the environment, Mr Paterson. See here for a rather interesting petition on this topic. But anyway, there are plenty of news articles on this subject which I will be linking to in the next few days on my News page, so keep your eyes peeled!
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Thank you! (All opinions are my own)