Down on the Farm
18 Mar 2005 - Private Eye
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
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.