16 Mar 2010

The Politics of Badgers

Some may remember I mentioned the controversy over the conference on 'The Politics of food' at the District Council - see here - well I didn't get to hear the speakers as I was in another meeting at Ebley Mill that day. However here below is one view countering that of the key conference speakers - below read Martin Hancox, Stroud, who was once upon a time on the government Badger TB Panel.

Photo: conference entrance

THE POLITICS OF FOOD & BADGERS (Conference Ebley Mill Council chamber)

May I express my thanks to both Lois Hainsworth of the National Council of Women, and John Hudson Chair of Stroud District.

Council for organising a very valuable meeting last monday on this issue. Delegates came from as far afield as Leics and Plymouth, and the key topics addressed were food sustainability with an exploding world population, plants for the future such as the source of artemisin vital in malaria control, robotic milking by councillor Norman Smith , and most controversially the vexed issue of badgers and bovine TB . Dr Gallagher presented a most interesting review ..arising from his time with MAFF at Elmbridge Court nr Gloucester, finding the first TB badger nr Wooton, and the Thornbury badger cull by gassing in the 1970s.

ALAS , the debate was as usual of the Alice in Wonderland virtual reality variety .. since he yet again claimed that cattle are NOT the main infectious source of TB to other cows or badgers (see Zuckerman report 1980). And yet it is blindingly obvious that the current cattle TB crisis spreading from tiny southwest hotspots to an area now encompassing a box between Anglesey-Derby-Dorset-Cornwall, and 89 herds and 600 reactors in 1979 to some 5000 herds and 40,000 reactors last year ..is simply due to relaxing cattle controls and spread AMONGST the Cattle POPULATION (nothing to do with badgers !). One farmer reported neighbours losing 30 or 60 cows in a herd , again cattle to cattle spread.

Dr Gallagher seemed to be unaware of the TB Eradication group report last October which in THE MOST important development in the whole debate over the last 40 years recognised that ALL the so-called "unconfirmed" cases DO have TB, the true hidden reservoir, not badgers after all. He also didn't comment on the latest finding from the Krebs cull reported 10th February which found that a 5 year cull in 150 sq.km. would only prevent c. 23 herd breakdowns out of 187 expected .. cost saved £600,000 vs cull £2million ! Translated to the home patch of Ionwen Lewis (Womens Food and Farming Union) in Wales where a cull in c 300 sq.km is about to happen from May that would prevent a mere 46 breakdowns out of 374 expected ie 12 % so not practicable or cost-effective .The Badger Trust Judicial Review opposing the cull happens Cardiff 22 & 23 March (see www.badger.org.uk, also www.badgersandtb.com click to The Great Debate ).

Lastly , one farmer in the audience said they'd been under TB restriction for 17 years .. as I suggested to Ionwen she should urge friends Elin Jones and Dr Glossop in Welsh Assembly to try the blood antibody ELISA test routinely used for such chronic herds in Ireland (Ive repeatedly tried to interest DEFRA in this but they are just that DEAF as a post !).

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