It was brave of Tory Aled Davies to admit he wants a Tory-led Welsh Assembly to kill badgers on a massive scale, in order to combat bovine tuberculosis (TB), at a hustings organised by NFU Cymru and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors yesterday (April 8).
Perhaps he thought he was only addressing farmers – many of whom seemed unreasonably keen on the idea. Maybe he didn’t realise he was also addressing This Writer. Too bad.
I mention that fact that farmers seemed “unreasonably” keen to kill badgers for a very simple reason:
The consumers – members of the public who support Welsh farmers when they buy their groceries – will never support it. They will abandon products made by farmers who support it.
That probably means all Welsh farmers. It seems unlikely anyone will be signing a register to show they supported this attempted genocide.
It would be remiss of This Writer not to note that the representatives of all the other parties present except Labour – UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats – also supported a cull, although only in particular circumstances.
There seems little evidence to support a cull. The Labour government in the Welsh Assembly had launched a vaccination programme – and the meeting heard that this had worked well until the vaccine ran out. It seems not enough was manufactured and what was available had been allocated to human beings.
It’s impossible to argue with the fight against TB in human beings – but it does raise the question of why insufficient amounts of the vaccine were available. The laws of supply and demand would necessitate at the Assembly government’s order should have been filled, so what happened? Nobody answered that at the hustings.
Then there’s the scientific evidence. NFU Cymru is calling for “evidence and science-based policy decision-making” in its own manifesto for the Assembly elections, but there’s precious little of that in the call for a cull.
Evidence shows that, while culling has reduced TB in areas of England where this has taken place, the disease has increased around the borders of those areas.
Evidence also shows that TB is cyclical, meaning that cutting its incidence down now won’t mean it can’t return later.
There may also be a question of bacteria causing TB remaining present in soil.
All of the above suggests that killing badgers won’t stop cows catching TB.
There needs to be a science- and evidence-based campaign against the disease, to protect farmers’ livestock and livelihood.
But that is a matter for the future.
For now, if you are a member of the public concerned about the future of the UK’s badger population, the message is clear:
Tories will kill badgers. Labour will attack bovine TB.
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