Tuberculosis - the latest rural crisis
8th January 2002 - BBC Newsnight
This transcript is produced from the teletext
subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked
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It's against the law to kill badgers. They are a
protected species. But this farmer has just shot one, and he's not in the
least bit worried about us knowing. The badger was sick. But Bryan Hill
wasn't just putting it out of its misery. He was trying to stop it giving
his cows TB.
Those claws are overgrown. That badger
hasn't dug anywhere for a long time. The teeth are gone. It's had its
mouth ripped by fighting somewhere. It has been using its nose a lot
because it can't dig any more. That badger wasn't very well.
And Bryan sees the illness as a threat to his business.
Farmers are certain badgers are spreading TB. And some are now taking
steps of their own to deal with it.
You shot it? You're not concerned about getting into
trouble for that?
If I'm going to get into trouble for putting something out of
its misery that would die of starvation, die of the freezing cold, because
the winter is on us now, and is in here and could be contaminating the
rest of the cattle round here - no, not a bit.
Landowners have put two and two together. Today, they see
twice as many cattle with TB as they did five years ago, and they also say
the badger population has rocketed. So, by their reckoning, badgers must
be infecting the cows.
I don't want them all dead, nor do any of my neighbours. All
we want is a sensible number of badgers living here - healthy badgers,
healthy cattle and healthy countryside.
In west Devon, where foot-and-mouth still casts long shadows,
TB is yet another front to fight on. Bryan's farm is near Hatherleigh. A
fifth of Britain's dairy herds live in this area. He escaped
foot-and-mouth but this is a hot spot for TB as well.
This is so precious to us. We've had BSE and foot-and-mouth. A
lot of people have had to put up with TB. This is one thing we can't
afford to have now. We can't go through another crisis - mentally,
physically, financially, whatever. This is where the countryside starts to
fight back. When you think of this valley now, there are three locations
of badgers in this valley. The general public has a weird perception that
badgers are an endangered species. I reckon, in just this valley - about
three-quarters of a mile - over 120 badgers.
Bryan's worries chew him up. There's nothing his friend, Paul
Griffith, can do to allay his fears. He blames badgers for infecting his
Look at this one, all covered with grass.
There's just too many that are being allowed to get too far into the
Paul's infected cows were destroyed. But, 18 months on, the
rules say the rest can't be moved outside the farm unless it's for
It was never in the herd in all the years I've had the
herd. It cannot have been brought in, as no animals were brought in. It
can only have come from outside. I'm almost positive it came through
feeding animals outside in troughs, the badgers going into those troughs,
contaminating them and passing it to the cattle.
The picture looks so simple - until, that is, the badger
protection lobby enters the frame. They're saying the farmers' theory is,
at best, a guess. The badger, they believe, has been fitted up.
DR ELAINE KING:
(SCIENTIST, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF BADGER
There's no relationship between numbers of badgers and the
level of TB in cattle. A lot of farmers say there is. Scientifically,
there isn't a link at all. So there are a lot of points that farmers are
making which are actually not supported by scientific evidence. That's why
we need to have a policy based on sound science.