Sunday, 16 February 2014

They Shoot Badgers Don’t They?

Wales conjures up for me one of the greatest rugby sides I have ever seen. Their rugby team in the early seventies was an education in the sport. The deprivation left behind after the closure of the coal pits bringing about a melt-down in so many mining communities.
This week however, the most encouraging news came out of Wales through figures released by Defra showing that Wales’ Bio-Security measures combined with a very small scale badger vaccination was astonishingly successful.  Wales are once again in the mix punching above their weight. 
Owen Paterson addressed parliament on the 2nd September 2013 stating that BTB is the most pressing problem in the farming community in the UK and that the disease was worsening and spreading across the country.  He told the House that the last ten years BTB had cost the tax payer five hundred million pounds and if left unchecked this would rise to one billion over the next ten years. 
On the 9th September 2013 he released a further statement confirming that the badger culls were underway repeating that BTB is the most pressing animal problem in the UK.  To say that this was an over-statement is an under-statement for quite simply, Own Paterson and Defra were quite wrong and I would almost say, they were misleading the House. 
In mid-January, Defra’s silently released news over-stating the figures for the incidents of Bovine TB due to glitches in data entries.  Those glitches going back to September 2011.  With the official figures being revised significantly downwards showing us all that BTB was nowhere near as prevalent in our herds as first stated.  No wonder the news this week was released with as little fanfare or press release as these figures contradict every statement we have heard from Defra and Owen Paterson over the last two to three years.  The old figures from Defra covering England, Wales and Scotland separately state, that from September 2012 to September 2013, Bovine TB had increased in herds by 18%.  Figures released this week show the exact opposite and that in this same time period there had been an actual reduction of 3.4%, so at the very time Paterson was claiming justification of the barbaric badger cull telling us how out of control the disease was and how it was spreading across the country was something that only a badger cull could halt.  The reality of the situation was, BTB infected cattle were actually falling. 
Wales has independently adopted a no cull Bio-Security and vaccination programme on some cattle farms as early as 2008.  Badger vaccination against TB in intensive action areas, North Pembrokeshire, parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire which began in May 2012.  Wales withdrew from the badger cull commitment to vaccination.  This was announced by the Welsh Environment Minister, John Griffiths in March 2012. 
Now we know Wales was right. Plaid Cymru and the Conservative politicians must surely now apologise for their misleading statements and above all, their unjust assault on a British icon. 
Owen Paterson has misled the House in a most serious and dishonourable fashion and must therefore explain how something so cruel and barbaric on the basis of total ignorance can be passed as British law. 
All through the culling campaign, the most common phrase I was continually hearing was ‘the government hasn’t met their targets in the culling zone for dead badgers.’ The numbers were not being met in the cull zones simply because, as I have always stated, badger numbers in the British Isles are nowhere near as plentiful as some people would have you believe. 
I listen to nonsense from both sides of the argument about how badgers have been flooded out of and even drowned in their setts in these monsoon-like weather conditions.  The reality and truth of the matter is, I have studied badgers for forty years.  I have been around badgers for the whole of my life time and nature I have studied as a love and an education.  Badgers don’t make setts on flood plains.  There was a lesson to be learnt on this forty years ago by our planning departments and our county councils.  If they had looked more towards the badger who is arguably without doubt, nature’s greatest engineer.  You would not have all the misery of the flooded homes that we have been seeing day after day on our television sets. 
Badgers, moles, voles, hedgehogs do not drown, they up sticks and they simply move on.  The badger is one of nature’s true survivors, knock back after knock back but he is still left standing.
Nature’s knock backs, the wildlife adapts, evolves, gets on with whatever is on the plate in front of it but the type of knock back we saw in 2013 was quite simply not cricket. Unfair and unjust. The badger cull created a situation in which the badger is unable to tolerate or come to terms with. The damage done will be years in the making good.  My fear is, if these ignorant people, the ones responsible for bringing about these disastrous and in my honest opinion, criminal acts against wildlife continue to massage figures and hide reality behind red tape just to suit their misguided, farcical ideology then the badger could become yet another animal that we used to see, like the river otter, the water vole and the dormouse. 
This morning we are all bathed in beautiful spring-like sunshine.  The birds are in tune and as I walk back from my badger sett I am only too well aware that there is most likely to be new young badger life deep within the setts.
For all those badgers that were so needlessly murdered in the cull there will be no more cubs and no more play fighting for them.  It has all been destroyed by an ignorant, cavalier act. 

Please sign the 131 petitions and protect the remaining badgers where you are and let’s see that between us all we can help to make the government see the gross error that was inflicted on our beautiful countryside in 2013.

As the wind howls overhead and the rain pours down a badger stands defiant not too far from her sett.

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