There has been a huge debate going on in Devon and Cornwall over the last few months and years about TB in cattle and the links between TB in cattle and TB in badgers. It is a debate intensified by the fact that local MP Ben Bradshaw is a DEFRA minister and at least in part responsible for any government decisions made on the outcome.
For as long as I can remember, local farmers have been blaming the spread of TB on badgers, and, whilst it seems fair to say that badgers do spread TB, the effects of cattle movement and, recently Foot and Mouth (under 'Reasons for Doubt') have also had a large part to play.
So what do the farmers want? A cull on badgers, obviously. Now I cant help but think that that's jumping the gun a little, going on assumptions rather than fact and blaming anything other than their own actions for the spread of TB. Thankfully, the government hasn't rushed to any firm conclusions - it is due to produce it's report tomorrow.
Today, however, a report from the journal Nature has suggested, (even in it's abstract) that the cull of badgers over the past 30 years
indicate that localized badger culling not only fails to control but also seems to increase TB incidence in cattle.
So, in true, illogical, small-minded little England style, what does the NFU regional representative say on BBC Spotlight (Devon and Cornwall regional news) tonight? He says, and I paraphrase for lack of eidetic memory
As the report highlights the fact that localised badger culling doesn't work, we must kill badgers on a bigger scale. By killing all the badgers, we stop TB.
I mean, this must be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard - if it doesn't work in a local area, the same problems will occur in any bigger area that isn't the whole of the country, surely? And how exactly does he propose to kill all the badgers anyway? I think they tried that with rabbits and didn't get too far...
To top it all off, he then goes on to admit that there are other methods that farmers could be doing to try and stop TB, but that they weren't willing to do them without co-operation from the government. This would be the co-operation that the government is withholding until it has found out whether it actually reduces TB in cattle. I mean, you just can't win.
The thing is, the link between badgers and TB, true, false or somehwere in the middle, has become so firmly engrained in the minds of farmers (well, at least those constantly interviewed on the local news, anyway) that they aren't going to be happy with anything less than a total cull - and that includes reputable publications like Nature telling them that they're wrong.