Thursday, 10 July 2008

Badgers and bovine TB

Last Monday Hilary Benn made the announcement livestock farmers in Devon and Cornwall were dreading: there is to be no cull of badgers to try and eradicate bovine tuberculosis. Of course I can't be sure but I suspect that this awful disease can be passed both from cattle to badgers and from badgers to cattle and maybe also between members of the same species. This is the awful dilemma isn't it, we just don't know for certain.

To me the badger is a very attractive and endearing animal but if proof positive showed that a cull would substantially reduce or better eradicate TB in cattle I would be for it. This is where I take issue with some animal lovers - it is too easy to categorise the animal kingdom into 'goodies' and 'baddies'. Thus badgers, foxes, deer and squirrels for instance get the thumbs up and many are horrified at the thought of any of these being deliberately killed. Taking the last mentioned for example, squirrels are extremely destructive to trees and will take birds eggs. But I can remember very many years ago my then young nephew almost hand feeding a grey squirrel in a London park. Me, I wouldn't necessarily turn down squirrel pie if it was on the pub menu, after all like many others I don't have any problem with traditional steak and kidney pudding! Sadly farmers get a bad press sometimes (there will always be the occasional one deserving of such) but by and large they really care about their livestock even though they know it is ultimately destined for the abattoir. When folk take sides regarding this whole question of badgers and bovine TB the pro badger lobby subconsciously perhaps don't worry too much about the fate of the cows. Because cattle are being reared in the knowledge that they are destined to be slaughtered and eaten I think some will believe that the lives of such beasts are less worthy of concern than that of the badger.

I'm not coming down on either side on this one but I'm trying to illustrate that personal feelings and emotions are liable to cloud judgment on this vexing problem.

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