The badger cull

Farmers intimidated by badger cull opponents” reads a newspaper headline.   What has happened to the rule of law in this country when a programme authorised by an elected government, after extensive consultation with experts, can be stopped by threats of violence?

Bambi has a lot to answer for.  A generation has grown up believing that wild animals are cuddly little chaps — they’re really just like us, except that they live in pretty, furry coats.

But they’re not human beings in costume.  Some — foxes and badgers for example — are aggressive, verminous and vicious.  Don’t offer them a tit-bit — they’re just as likely to take your fingers as well.  So let’s just have a rational discussion without the ghost of Walt Disney looking over our shoulders.

Bovine TB is a horrible disease.  It resulted in the slaughter of 26,000 infected cattle in the UK in 2011.  Nearly a quarter of dairy herds in the South West were under movement restrictions last year.  There were 3,741 new TB incidents in the year.  And it has cost the taxpayer — you and me — half a billion pounds in the last decade.  That could rise to one billion in the next decade, without radical action.

Bovine TB is an appalling disaster for individual dairy farmers.  A farmer may spend decades building a prize-winning herd, only to see it destroyed by TB.  His life’s work and his business destroyed in one fell swoop.  The typical outbreak costs £30,000.  And even before the disease strikes, dairy farmers (with all their other problems) face the weight of anxiety every time they get a test result in.  They live under a Sword of Damocles.

But if the disease is a disaster for cattle and farmers, think of the impact on badgers.  A cow struck down with TB is at least put down humanely.  Not so for a badger.  Thousands die a horrible and painful death.  This is happening now, and it’s what the RSPCA is celebrating as “Badger friendly milk”.

The RSPCA’s approach is thoroughly reprehensible.  They’re arbitrarily concerning themselves with what they wrongly see as the welfare of badgers, and ignoring the welfare of the National Dairy Herd.  They’re also ignoring the suffering of badgers with TB.  Indeed they seem to be more concerned with cynical populism than with animal welfare.

They’ve taken a biased, one-sided, simplistic, facile and emotive approach to a complex and technical debate.  They call for “Badger-Friendly Milk” labels on milk from non-cull areas.  They might just as well label it “Cow-Unfriendly Milk”.  Or “This milk promotes bovine TB”.  Or “Love Badgers — Hate Cows”.

Last week I debated the issue with the RSPCA on BBC’s Farming Today programme.  The RSPCA (and the interviewer) made much of the public’s “right to know”.  But given the RSPCA’s biased, propagandist approach to the issue, it’s more about the public’s right to be misled.  You can’t summarise this very complex debate in a three-word slogan — and if you could, it certainly wouldn’t be “Badger-Friendly Milk”.

Surely all decent people agree that the objective is a healthy National Dairy Herd, and a healthy wild population of badgers.  The question is how we get there, and the RSPCA isn’t helping.  Some argue for vaccination, either oral or injectable.  This may indeed offer an eventual solution — though how we reach and vaccinate a critical mass of badgers remains problematic.  But an infected badger remains infectious, so even if we could achieve mass vaccination overnight, there would still be an urgent need for immediate transitional measures in hot-spot areas.

I return to my starting point: we live in a (more or less) free and democratic country under the rule of law.  The government, after many delays and legal actions, and extensive consultation, has come up with a programme which I believe is in the best interests not only of cows and farmers, but also of the wild badger population.  We must let the culling test run, and we should take robust action against the simplistic fools who threaten farmers and supermarkets.

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28 Responses to The badger cull

  1. Judging from the number of carcases alongside the roads, has not the cull already begun?

  2. catalanbrian says:

    It quite astonishes me that I can agree wholeheartedly with a UKIP MEP. but I do in this instance!

    • Derek says:

      This is a subject in which I am not knowledgable. Some experts have said that carrying out a cull in one area will not work in the long run as badgers from outside the are, some of which will be infected, will move in. If that is correct and it seems logical, then only a nationwide cull would work, followed by a re-introduction of healthy badgers.

      • in total disbelief says:

        Just where do you get thousands of badgers from??, they dont sell them at Tesco.They have their own territories, many have been in these for hunderds of generations. and wont take kindly to being moved out.

  3. machokong says:

    Stuff Brian May, who does that hippy low life think he is, bugger off and make some music idiot!

    I think all of these “Charities” need to be re-examined to keep their status and if any costs are further incurred by the actions of faux recommendations of one that they be made to pick up the the cost, not the tax payer, then we’ll see how quick they will be in the future to mislead the public if there were a chance they had to pay for it.

  4. I don’t understand why some form of vaccination has not been created for the COWS, rather than the badgers. In the “old days”, cattle herds were regularly rounded up for blood samples and subsequent testing for things such as brucellosis and other organisms (the former is now eradicated, from what little I remember). Taking a blood sample from a cow was relatively easy; so why should a vaccination per animal be so difficult?
    Herds of cows are numbered and therefore “finite”……badgers, on the other hand, are not labelled and could be anywhere, so trying to find them all for vaccination strikes me as particularly idiotic. Cries of “oh but the costs!” seem irrelevant because surely if preventative measures are paid for, i.e vaccinating the cows, then the problem is better controlled.

    At one time, we had a useful well staffed veterinary service in this country, under the former MAFF…..whatever happened to that? Why has there been no research done on formulating a suitable cattle vaccine?

    With all due respect to Mr Helmer, I think culling badgers is a waste of time and energy; you cannot possibly locate them all and even a cull will, after a few years, be worthless because badgers do, after all, reproduce…..and the whole thing starts again.

  5. Lesley Clapp says:

    Recently we have had several discussions over this latest badger cull. My husband is a dairy farmer and has been under restrictions from TB several times over the years, he once fought to allow him to keep a special red heifer calf – it was slaughtered. This article has now brought to my attention, the fact that the badgers die slow and painful deaths, I am surprised that the RSPCA can condone that. I believe that any cull needs to be followed by an immunisation programme to protect new badgers moving into empty setts. Has any consideration been given to the other animals that can also be carriers of this disease?

    • wendy rayner says:

      TB is’nt VERY infectious in badgers and is’nt always fatal (over half are killed on roads). Its also kept within the sett so lets see what we can do to change all that.
      40,000 dogs were culled during the worst of the London plague – the plague died out of its own accord, not that I’m suggesting TB will but what purpose did that cull serve?

  6. Zalt Al says:

    From Monday when the killing starts I won’t be buying any more dairy milk or cheese. That’s the bad news. The good news however is I popped along to my local Tesco and they tell me they have stocked up with non dairy milk substitutes in readiness. Can’t wait to start trying them.

  7. Louise says:

    What happened to the government listening to parliament which overwhelmingly voted against the cull? Or to scientists who have overwhelmingly said that a cull won’t work?

  8. in total disbelief says:

    “what has happened to the rule of law in this country” I ask myself the same question,!! This is not a gov policy,the policy was DEFEATED in parliament by a vote of 148 – 27, yet they still propose to slaughter thousands of badgers?? A NATIONAL DISGRACE!! That SHOULD be stopped!!

  9. Adrian Wright says:

    I have a great knowledge of Badgers, having studied them for a number of years. The Proposed Badger Cull is a useless waste of time and resources. It won’t solve the problem at all. If you support this cull, then you are just as short sighted as Owen Paterson, NFU and Defra. UKip will lose a lot of potential voters by siding with these out of touch idiots. Believe in Science, NOT a knee jerk reaction!

  10. Paul Mascrier says:

    Your extremely right wing views on the Badger cull and Fox hunting are going to cost your party votes. The vast majority of the British public are against Fox hunting and growing numbers are coming to realise that the wholly unscientific nonsense being spouted by yourself and your ex-buddies, the Tories, is lies.
    If your twisted morality is endorsed by the UKIP, then your party will fail.

  11. MrsF says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with The last four replies. In the recent County Council elections UKIP lost my vote when I read of your stance on the badger cull. I vowed that I wouldn’t use my vote again until I encountered a politician/party I could trust – I thought I’d found that party in UKIP but I was obviously mistaken!

  12. Bigfoot the Terrible says:

    This guy (Helmer) obviously reads the press and not a) the government sponsored report which took nine years to finally state categorically that a limited cull was a waste of time and life and b) the New Zealand report which Owen Paterson keeps referring to. My wife went on one about this subject so I decided to read all the original documents I could find (dating back to the Badger gassings with cyanide in the 60’s.
    It’s a criminal waste of time folks. It’ll just serve to give some gun happy nuts a chance to shoot a largish animal. DEFRA’s stance? They are sending ‘trained monitors’ to listen and record how long the animals take to die, comparing their screams to those of whales recorded at the pint of death – I’m not making this up! Read it yourself, they guy responsible for the New Zealand cull writes eloquently on why it will not work in the UK and why it isn’t necessary. He points out there are NO badgers in New Zealand (they culled possums) so not an indigenous species but an alien menace. The cull had no effect whatsoever until the New Zealand farmers took it upon themselves to finance better husbandry, absolutely no movement of stock better vermin proofed equipment etc and a COMPLETE cull of any particular area to wipe the species out. He calls British farmers lazy and with a completely unreal attitude to their profession.
    I shoot myself but wipe out a native species? I think not. Buy some high sided water troughs and some fences and the rest of you for God’s sake don’t trust the press or politicians kowtowing to one powerful lobby who finance their parties but READ THE LITERATURE!!!

    • Victoria says:

      Thank you for a voice of reason against the pro cull who ignore the advice of Lord Krebs and use the badger as a scapegoat. Patronising comparing ‘Walt Disney’ to science experts, public concern and people who have significant experience of wildlife and the effect this cull will have on them.

      I notice that the fact that the majority slaughtered will not be infected is not mentioned, this is RANDOMISED not a kind act of putting to sleep the infected ones. I too was horrified by the experiments on badgers in the past, when only someone else watching the slow painful death of the gassed badger managed to top this process? The vaccine will have 70% effectiveness the cull under 16% at best, if everything goes to plan- you do the maths!

  13. steve nicholls says:

    Its a pity you take the pro culling view because up until then you had my vote. Why do you ignore the advice of scientists that the cull is not the answer and will achieve virtually nothing but to decimate the badger. As I said I would have voted for you but now you and Farage can stick it up your arse.

  14. Lulu The Badger says:

    Mr Helmer, your party supposedly “listens” to public opinion, your leader apparently sniffs the air and impressively senses public mood – what happened?!

    Here are some facts you probably already know…

    Eng & Wales stats 08:
    36,322 cattle were culled as a result of positive bTB tests
    125,455 cattle were culled as a result of mastitis
    175,637 cattle were culled as a result of infertility
    Scotland stats – “bTB free status has been achieved mainly by the restriction of movement of cattle coming in from outside Scotland until tested as bTB free”

    Interestingly a year ago – “Shooting badgers is politically motivated, not scientifically driven, and farmers need to realise they’re being sold a lame duck.” – says FARMER Steve Jones
    Link to article:

    And here we are a year later, and this ‘cull’ is not even testing to see if culled badgers were indeed infected!
    “Common sense” is something your party supposedly supports. It seems that Labour have come round to this conclusion (in this particular area!) so why can’t UKIP?
    Here is a slant on the matter. Would you agree we need to prioritise getting a firm grip of farming practices in England and Wales, especially with Food Security in mind?
    Now go figure!

  15. Elizabeth Patterson Kelly says:

    I cannot believe this utter tripe. Stunning ignorance and lack of empathy. Depressing that you hold a job where you are given a platform to speak publicly.

  16. jgordon5 says:

    This is an uninformed, bigoted very personal view of the cull. Firstly research shows badgers are victims rather than culprits. Scientists, naturalists, ecologists and many farmers are against the cull. There is a huge amount of vested interest in keeping landed rich people happy and their pheasant shoots lucrative. Only Defra, NFU and Paterson in favour. It was defeated in commons 219 to 1. Peaceful anti cull protesters were threatened by shooters and their associates and in many cases not protected at all by the police. I suggest you do your homework and retract this blog.

  17. Roger, I’m afraid the science does not support your views. Animal lovers are angry (and rightly so) because the government is distorting the evidence to please the farming lobby, and slaughtering wildlife needlessly without good evidence of it being effective. This has nothing to do with TB and everything to do with trying to secure votes ahead of the GE.

    Granted, there are some animal rights extremists who will always ruin things for the majority, but equally illegal thuggish behaviour has been carried out by proponents of the cull. Legal or not, this cull increases suffering to both wildlife and cattle. It will make the situation worse and people are exercising their right to peaceful protest as a result. Most of these people are compassionate folk- both townie and rural- who simply do not want wild animals needlessly killed. They are not all nutters, as you appear to suggest, and not all farmers are in favour of the cull.

    So please look at this issue from more than one side and realize that the science is overwhelmingly on the side of the anti-cull activists. Not the government. You should be fighting this cull and championing science, you would be well respected for that, but your apparent opposition to animal rights (fox hunting and the badger cull) will cost you votes.

    I’ve pasted some of these studies below, showing that the government is lying about culling being an effective disease control method. Is it any wonder, therefore, that people are annoyed and frustrated?

  18. Meg Browning says:

    I thought UKIP were the saviours of the common ‘British’ man. The pressure for the cull is motivated by rich, foreign, hunting, shooting and fishing toffs. The hunting fraternity regard badgers as vermin, largely because they destroy pheasants nests and ruin the sport. The government, possibly because they are out of touch Eton boys, shy away from the real science which states that culling won’t work. Farming practices need to change to reduce the effects of TB and, gosh, that’s expensive and involves flexibility of thought, God help us. Agriculture should stop thinking of itself as an industry which implies dealing with machines, rather than living organisms and a complex wild environment.

  19. avawenna says:

    The current ‘government’ was not democratically elected – they are a minority coalition who weaselled their way into power. Let’s not forget that the Welsh government decided to vaccinate, not cull – because they listen to experts and informed public opinion. The Lib/Con coalition threw all its principles and credibility away a long time ago. Anyway, the botched cull has strengthened my resolve to avoid all dairy products – and I’m much healthier without them

  20. mo young says:

    You have just lost my vote……….you ignorant, pompous,little man.. Do your research before you pontificate!!!!!

  21. True Brit. I love England, I hate the EU Nazi state! says:

    UKIP will solve both the badger problem and the Romanian problem. Roger Helmer tells it as it is. Vote UPIK!

    • jgordon5 says:

      Badgers aren’t the problem though are they; intensive farming, cows factory farmed, stressed with no natural resistance to infection, spreading infected slurry, cattle movement…. etc etc. Research has shown badgers are not the cause, it just suits this government to make them the culprits.
      I wouldn’t dream of voting for UKIP.

  22. Sam says:

    Sad to say, like many others on here, UKIP have lost another voter. Didn’t realise their stance on badgers & foxes until this morning, but I couldn’t vote for a party that allows a representative to spout such moronic, spurious misinformed nonsense. Bringing Walt Disney into the argument??? WTF?

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