Science shows cattle are the main cause of bovine TB spread, so badger slaughter makes no sense. Politics and economics are behind this catastrophic policy
Monday 19 December 2016 13.07 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 20 December 201611.35 GMT
More than 10,000 badgers have been killed this autumn in a cull supposedly to combat the disease of bovine TB in cattle. This was the fourth year of culling badgers but, in truth, we have been slaughtering our largest wild carnivore for decades. We have to ask one question: why has this bloody killing gone on for so long?
I use the b-word more as an adjective than an intensifier, since the blood of the innocents continues to be spilt. Scientists dislike value judgments such as “innocent” and “guilty”. But even if the badger was “guilty” of spreading bovine TB to cattle, it would be an innocent victim of man’s arrogance and blind stupidity.
More than 30 years ago, while working for theWorld Wildlife Fund, I was asked to write a book about badgers and bovine TB. The Fate of the Badger was published in 1986. I never thought the controversy over controlling the bovine TB in cattle by killing a protected wild animal would become such a tortuous saga. Astonishingly, in the three decades since then, nothing much has changed.
Thirty years ago we aimed to fight the official slaughter of a protected species through government-led badger culls by science not emotion. Then we met politics.
For three years I was an adviser to the government – a depressing experience. I had a mole in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (now Defra). He told me that the decision to cull badgers was taken at No 10. My staunchest ally at that time was the great Phil Drabble, the countryman and presenter of One Man and His Dog. He would phone me with a stream of unprintable invective against the department. Apart from being a TV celebrity, he wrote for The Field magazine and had a direct line of communication with our opponents. Where is his equivalent today?
Politicians rise because they are clever, but few are blessed with a scientific mind. The myth of badger culpabilityfor bovine TB in cattle is rooted in poor science – and economics.