12 Feb 2010

Controversy at food conference

'The Politics of Food' conference on 8th March has been organised by The National Council of Women (NCW). It features four speakers and has been hosted by Stroud District Council to coincide with International Women's Day.

Photo: Standish woods

The conference will draw attention to a number of important farming issues, including food security, food miles and biodiversity - indeed a huge welcome to them for covering these important issues. However one of the speakers will be Dr. John Gallagher, Veterinary Surgeon talking on "Cattle, Badgers and TB: the facts".

This choice of speaker is controversial. I understand that Dr John Gallagher considers the Thornbury badger trial showed the need for gassing badgers. Many others are not convinced by these arguments – indeed some experts are anti-cull, pro-vaccine - others do not believe badgers are the cause of TB but rather the cows are giving it to the badgers.

TB is an extremely serious problem for farming and should not be underestimated but I am not convinced by the arguments of this particular vet if he is arguing for culls. I have spoken to the organisers to welcome this event but to express concerns about having such a one-sided view - of course not knowing Dr Gallagher he may well present the alternative views.....

And talking of different views I've just been sent a report by Helen E. Jenkins1, Rosie Woodroffe2, Christl A. Donnelly1 - it is just out and they write: "Our findings show that the reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results, combined with evaluation of alternative culling methods, suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain." See the research here. There are many others who have a similar view but sadly while the debate rages the farmer is left to suffer and face the problems.

1 Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom, 2 Institute of Zoology, London, United Kingdom.

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