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Down on the Farm

18 Mar 2005 - Private Eye

By Muckspreader

DEFRA's response to the letter from 350 vets calling on Margaret Beckett to allow a cull of TB-infected badgers has been horribly predictable.

The vets wrote in "despair" at DEFRA's refusal to face up to the crisis engulfing the dairy industry as Britain's cows succumb en masse to the epidemic of bovine TB in an exploding badger population. Even on ministry figures, within 10 years the compensation bill for the destruction of TB-infected cows will have reached 2bn; and the UK is in imminent danger of losing its "TB-free" status, which could cost a further 600m a year in lost dairy exports.

All this, say the vets, is because DEFRA is determined to ignore the overwhelming evidence that the only way to halt the TB epidemic is to cull sick badgers. Since 1977, when Labour came to power, DEFRA has refused to issue any further licences for badger culling; and TB in both badgers and cattle has exploded.

Mrs Beckett and sidekick Ben Bradshaw responded with a limp policy document and no commitment to actually do anything. Bradshaw also made the usual noises about how impossible it would be to allow a badger cull because animal lovers wouldn't like it. The Labour Party, remember, received a 1m donation from the Political Animal Lobby. But have we missed something here?

This is the government which, in 2001, ordered the illegal slaughter of more than eight million healthy animals in the foot and mouth epidemic, having refused to heed the advice of the world's top veterinary scientists that it could be avoidedby mass-vaccination. And isn't it also odd that the RSPCA should have backed DEFRA's refusal to allow the culling of badgers? Back in 2001 it was the same RSPCA which, when presented with evidence of more than 60 examples of flagrant cruelty to animals during the FMD crisis, refused to take any action?

So the killing o healthy farm animals is fine, while killing sick badgers is ut of the question. As the vets pointed out, the real victims of this sentimentality include the thousands of badgers already doomed to die a horrible and lingering death by their disease.

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