Democracy works for buzzards, forests and badgers

Yesterday I wrote how a daft plan to interfere with buzzards (Buteo buteo) was abandoned after a public outcry. Not long after that a daft plan to sell off our national forests also was abandoned. Today timr6 at Green Living London writes how another daft plan, this time to cull badgers (Meles meles), is ‘postponed’.

Owen Paterson, head of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), we know that you’re a career politician. It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it. One of the things you have to do is back down when a plan is daft. Take the flak about ‘Government U-turns’, hold your head up, grow a pair and cancel the badger cull.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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7 Responses to Democracy works for buzzards, forests and badgers

  1. I was surprised it was merely “postponed”. I, like many others was expecting it to be called off completely

    • argylesock says:

      I’m still quite hopeful. He’s set himself up to say that he spent the winter thinking deeply about the evidence, listening to people’s opinions, and that something unexpected happened (a blue tit ate peanuts while dangling upside down, or something equally weird 😉 ) so Mr Paterson the great leader took a decision. He could even say ‘I’m sorry,’ and get it spoofed for YouTube like Nick Clegg did.

  2. timr6 says:

    Thanks for the link. Let’s hope Mr Paterson keeps thinking about the evidence and scraps the cull completely!

    • argylesock says:

      We can hope so. I’m getting quite optimistic about it now. There’d be comparisons with the foot and mouth disease (FMD) epidemic. Many people (scientists like me and normal people too) think that was badly mishandled. I’d like to see journalists get their teeth into this comparison. How about this for a start?

      KILL KILL KILL! Paterson the countryman likes to kill everything! He wants to protect gamekeepers from having their pheasant poults preyed on by buzzards and foxes. Now he’s sending in people with guns (he likes guns) to kill badgers.

      Paterson doesn’t know how many badgers there are. He doesn’t believe the scientists who spent years thinking about badgers and who said killing them would cause only a few % improvement in the bovine TB problem. That’s a few % in a best-case prediction. It might cause no improvement at all. It might cause the TB problems to get worse.

      The missing link in Paterson’s brain is this: badgers have legs. Kill them in one place and the badgers from a few miles away will simply walk in and take over the empty sett.

      As the judge said, after hearing the case for a prosecution, ‘Don’t bother me with the case for the defence. Send that criminal to the gallows!’

      Paterson can blame the Labour Government for killing the nation’s cows when FMD struck. That was a cock-up on an epic scale. Now that Labour is out of power, Paterson the Tory wants to kill the nation’s badgers.

  3. skezier says:

    I am not as well read as you but the 2001 FMD crisis was badly, badly, badly handled for sure and I so hope (please let it never happen again) if it does happen again that vaccination (as is done in some EU countries) would be used rather than the culling of all regardless of illness….. It was a bad time to have sheep in he UK for sure.

    The driving force then was the NFU…. they even proposed that all sheep should be killed as they said they thought it was endemic within the sheep flocks…. It was a serious suggestion by them as well!

    I believe its the NFU behind the cull of the Badgers and well if it is then it has not been scrapped… they are so powerful as a lobby group for some reason. I fully accept they are not my faverate people but until 2001 I hadn’t decided that.

    I so hope that the government will listen to the scientist and not bow to the pressure re the introduction of the cull of animals that have no proven links with cattle TB….. We just have to hope but I really am worried its just been suspended and might therefore happen.

    I have to say I have so enjoyed your blog and so glad to have found it. Cris x

    • argylesock says:

      Aw shucks! I was personally affected by the FMD epidemic, in fact. I’d met Ms Right only a few months earlier and her family farm lost all its cattle. I wrote about it

      Since that thread, I’ve been wanting to write properly about what happened with FMD in Britain. Infectious diseases in livestock are my research interest (PhD on Toxoplasma gondii in sheep) but in a way, that just makes me realise how little I know! Anything you’d like to say about FMD, I’ll read with interest. One question I haven’t yet answered is why the effective vaccination against bovine FMD makes it unlawful to export the meat. My OH says that the disease itself is quite trivial.

      Btw my to-blog list keeps growing! So please don’t hold your breath. I’m looking forward to reading your blog too.

      • skezier says:

        I so hope your OH’s family have recovered from it and carried on in farming as well?

        What a worth while thing to have specialised in, it loses the farmers so much money with either absorption or miscarry. Though I don’t eat meat I do love farm animals…. its a bit of an odd one but I would hate to see all the fields empty.

        Now the vaccine thing I do know the answer to or at least the one given in ’01 when I asked about getting mine vaccinated against FMD.

        They said I could do them but 6 months after the all clear they would cull them as they would always come up with the antibodies and nobody could tell if they were dead vaccination ones or live disease ones.

        I believe the same still stands and also for the TB vaccine as well in cattle….. Its certainly one of the reasons they have said to explain why they opted for the badger cull and not vaccination.

        Holland did vaccinate with their FMD in ’01 and I assume that either that counted against them in the meat trade to this day or they did them go back and kill them as new stock were introduced, that’s something I will try and find out about actually as its reinvent if they didn’t as to what the EU did re their animals.

        I just read your ’01 blog and thanks for the link… hope I haven’t said too much but it is also a fact that had the original outbreak actually been reported then the ’01 would have been far more localised and no where near as bad. that said it was badly handled given the way the UK deal with it.

        I don’t agree with the draconian measures as such but I do think that given they exist then the army should have been called in so much sooner, I really do.

        Lets hope the ’07 one will be the UK’s last.

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