this appalling slaughter continues to fall short of the expectations of the so-called experts behind the plan. In Gloucestershire, as with Somerset, the cull has not met its target. In a repeat of the farce in the other pilot cull, the original population was apparently overestimated and has been reduced from 3,400 to 2,350. The target of 2,900 kills has been reduced accordingly to 1,650. They have managed to destroy ‘only’ 708, fewer than half.
Do these buffoons have any idea of what they are doing? They are applying for an extension from the six week cull, which could be for a further 8 weeks.
I have to ask several questions about all of this. Firstly, just how many badgers are really in the area. It seems like a sick joke to simply pluck figures out of thin air. What if there are only a thousand animals, or maybe four thousand? On the one hand, the cull could eliminate badgers entirely. On the other, it could leave two thirds of the animals alive.
Protagonists for the slaughter claim that if 70% of badgers are killed, the rate of increase of bovine TB will be slowed by 16%. Yes, you read that correctly: the rate of increase will be reduced by a tiny amount. If fewer than 7 out of ten are killed it will have no effect whatever. I would suggest that if the organisers of the cull haven’t got the faintest idea of how many badgers are present, they cannot possibly know how successful their efforts have been.
Also, the idea is to kill the target number in a short time, thus preventing the movement and spread of the badgers to other areas. As with Somerset, they are asking to more than double the original timescale. Add to this that if they have found less than half of the revised target in six weeks, the rest are going to be scattered more widely and will be even harder to locate.
No, its a shambles. Costs must be soaring and may rise even higher. The government is talking about introducing more culls throughout England next year. If this happens, it will do so without knowing what effect these two culls have had. They point to ‘success’ in Ireland as justification. In Ireland, TB in cattle was reduced from 17% to 3% without killing a single badger. The 1989 ERAD report in Ireland states that the primary mechanism for spread of the disease is still contact between infected cattle, either directly or indirectly. It follows that TB will not be eradicated, even if we make badgers extinct in Ireland and the UK without further measures. Some farmers in Ireland want to see the cull extended to deer as well as badgers. Just how many species are we prepared to slaughter in the interest of wealth?
Do you know why I think the culls have started, especially in these two counties? Politics. A UK general election is looming. The coalition government is already splintering. The Conservatives are worried about their voters defecting to UKIP. They want to get voters back on their side. Somerset and Gloucestershire are rural, farming counties and all of their MPs are either Conservative or Liberal Democrat, with the majority being Conservative. The badgers in these counties are unlucky. They are simply being killed to keep some worried Conservative MPs on their big fat salaries. So, how many badgers does it cost to keep a Conservative MP in power? well, 5 out of 6 in Gloucestershire and 3 out of 7 in Somerset are Conservative. The rest are Liberal Democrat. If we need to kill 3,800 animals (the total revised ‘guess’), that means each Conservative MP needs 475 badgers to be shot to regain power.
This could also be the reason that the cull is to spread further next year, with or without any evidence for its efficacy. My worry is that there are 304 Conservative Members of Parliament. Does this mean the pointless execution of close to 150,000 animals? Probably.
One final thought on the topic: bovine TB is largely spread aerially in the animal’s breath. It can infect humans as well as badgers and cattle. It follows that humans can spread the disease to cattle as well as each other. Maybe, since farmers are in closer proximity to their herds than many badgers get, we should shoot all the farmers, too? Oh, while we’re at it we’d better shoot ramblers and hikers because they could spread the disease.