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Martin Horwood Cheltenham MP: How not to run a badger cull

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: October 21, 2013

Martin Horwood Cheltenham MP: How not to run a badger cull

Martin Horwood MP

Comments (8)

A YEAR ago in this column, I said that those clamouring for something to be done about bovine tuberculosis "may be disappointed if they think the cull will deliver."

Culling badgers was rejected as a cost-effective solution by the Government's own lengthy and expensive scientific study.

That predicted TB would reduce by only 16 per cent in cull zones, but only if it was done efficiently and enough badgers were killed.

That hasn't happened. The Government's estimated badger population in Gloucestershire's cull zone was 3,368. That dropped to 2,350, lowering the 70 per cent cull target to 1,650, but the final tally is apparently only 708.

Scientists warned a partial cull could actually makes things worse.

So now there's a request for the original six-week trial period to be more than doubled.

Environment secretary Owen Patterson infuriated many by pressing ahead with mass destruction of protected animals, then risked ridicule by joking that the badgers had "moved the goalposts".

In the meantime, the cost of policing (and disruption to other policing activity) is spiralling. I've tabled Parliamentary questions asking by how much.

During the last year, I also visited the farm of Dave and Gill Purser near Cheltenham, who'd had no TB "reactors" for decades.

Their advice was that, short-term, we should focus on better "biosecurity" on farms not culls.

Meanwhile Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has patiently advocated a vaccine-led approach as a long-term solution.

It's ironic that government is now doing the right thing, both on biosecurity and vaccines, a fact completely obscured by the disastrous cull. How not to do it.

Highlights of the week:

Sunday: Built a bed with son Sam. Not a great political achievement but I it felt like a famous victory, especially after hitting myself in the head with a plank. Stick to day job.

Tuesday: A genuine political victory as we incorporate important changes to dangerous dogs legislation into the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill after years of trying.

The law will now extend to private property and begin to move from "breed" to "deed" and whether the owner is a "fit and proper person" to own a dog.

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8 comments

  • mmjames  |  October 24 2013, 10:03AM

    elmag Wednesday, October 23 2013, 4:05PM "Is no one here going to say a word for the farmers who are worried sick about bTB ............... Not many on these newspaper comments threads! Mostly ARA types with NO first hand knowledge of the problem and little understanding of disease or veterinary medicine.

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  • elmag  |  October 23 2013, 4:05PM

    Is no one here going to say a word for the farmers who are worried sick about bTB? Or for the thousands of cows summarily shot and who know exactly what is about to happen to them? Any farmer will tell you that they feel terror. It's all very well for people who pride themselves on being animal lovers and wildlife enthusiasts to be so vitriolic about the cull - but I just wonder what they would do if they were family farmers, desperate to avoid having their cows and calves killed as a result of a positive skin test. A positive bTB skin test doesn't necessarily mean that the cow is infected. It means that the animal has come across the bacterium and has not succumbed to it. Reactors are still killed, in calf or not. Decent farmers, and there are many, understand very well that no "biosecurity" in the world is going to keep out scavenging sick badgers who are desperate for food. And if I was a farmer in one of the hotspots all too aware that there was highly infectious bTB in the roaming badgers near my farm I too would would welcome anything to help to eradicate the disease in wildlife - and feel utterly miserable at the hate directed at me by a well orchestrated anti-cull campaign. And, since it would be my business to find out about the vaccine, I'd know that it is not yet effective enough to stop bTB. If it were, does anyone seriously think the farmers would be against vaccinating the local badgers? bTB can spread to pets and to people. I know someone who contracted it from her beloved alpacas. It is very, very nasty.

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  • stormkettle  |  October 22 2013, 4:15PM

    The criminality around any illegal killing of badgers hangs heavy in the air

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  • jstn123  |  October 22 2013, 10:59AM

    Good luck in getting the TRUTH about how much this and previous trial fiascoes (not to mention subsidies) have cost the tax payer so far,...the amount will be STAGGERING and totally unjustifiable in this time of hardships for most of us..how much money has been wasted will never be revealed in truth.

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  • twigcat  |  October 21 2013, 3:14PM

    I hope you are right, Clued-Up. Signs are better now than ever that it has to end now. But, my god, the damage already done! Such a futile, treacherous, barbaric attack on our wildlife and on us. I despise Paterson, Cameron, Kendall et al like I have no one ever before. Never forget and never forgive.

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  • missmustoe  |  October 21 2013, 2:34PM

    It really is a case of 'We all told you so' by scientists, conservationists, and intelligent people, who were never led by politics, greed and profit, but were good natured, and pushed for Badger vaccination, and cattle vaccination, which is stemmed now, by dealings with China, to import dairy products from this country , China who will NOT accept vaccinated cattle, so sadly they will not get the help they need, by this government. It is deeply sad that the animal cruelty, and a huge divide of people, have been the injury of this ill-found cull. I only hope that the top scientist from natural England, and the injunction by the badger trust will prevail and the concerns by the police will put an end to this disaster for all concerned. And that we can cherish our badger population, an important part of the symbiosis of nature, and crush the superstition, which has seen them persecuted for to long. And that those responsible for illegal gassing and continued killing off of our native species will be brought to task for bad deeds done.

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  • Clued-Up  |  October 21 2013, 12:33PM

    The badger cull can't end fast enough - but there are increasing signs it WILL stop and those responsible for it WILL pay the reputational and political price for their misdeeds. Natural England's chief scientist has publicised his advice the Gloucestershire cull should not be extended. There's also a legal challenge in the High Court to stop the Gloucestershire cull extension. 11 Tory MPs have written to minister Paterson saying he should rethink. Paterson was "unavailable for comment" Gloucestershire's PCC Surl says policing an extension of the cull is not practicable - it's created dangerous community tensions and has exhausted police resources.

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  • Harymary  |  October 21 2013, 12:22PM

    Oooh look! An intelligent MP - rare sighting indeed. A move to his constituency seems very enticing.

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