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Going with the territory…

September 9, 2013

#Liddell-Grainger’s 1* accusatory diatribe conducted against  opponents of the #badgercull  needs to be ignored for the unworthy cheapness of it’s delivery and the potential distraction it represents from the main trust of the protest against arbitrary culling.

If you choose to campaign against popular institutions and Government steeped in establishment tradition I’m afraid being over sensitive is an open opportunity for those, Like Liddell,  who have no reasoned sustainable argument to “take a swing at you”.

My own involvement as a committed environmentalist living in the middle of a Cotswold farming community has taught me that like “drunks”certain opponents have no capacity to be reasoned with and best practice is to avoid confrontation that only reinforces existing prejudice  and wastes your own energy .

I am not advocating avoiding awkward issues when standing up for matters you sincerely believe in or have investigated and decided to take a view that’s contrary to orthodoxy , but I see no point in arguing fruitlessly.

Classically #Owen Paterson has chosen to ignore best scientific opinion and pursues a policy that  only satisfies popular received wisdom within the farming  community. Paterson by insisting ,on the basis of his visit to New Zealand, 2*  that the only realistic solution to the serious issue of bTB within the U,K national herd  is a cull of the  native badger population.

Without repeating the well worn counter arguments in detail  the best research and science refutes the practicability and efficacy of his position, I am more concerned as his opponent how I focus my own energy and that of colleagues to  change his position.

The great advantage of those of us opposed to culling badgers is we have the considered science and research on our side whilst Paterson is a committed free-marketeer whose mantra is to release industry from constraint and allow de-regulation wherever and whenever possible.

Not to defend the Minister but rather to explain his obduracy I  think he genuinely believes  on the basis of an inner intuition that finds comfort in the  rather simplistic view that regulation and government intervention are anathema to creativity and enterprise. Without distracting myself I sympathise that bureaucratic systems and  overbearing regulation are sometimes irritating but, if you choose to live in a global economy within a complex society you are naive if you believe society can function free from regulation that provides order.

Taking this position further where one  very subjective matter of  opinion challenges another , rigorous science and thorough research can bridge the gap of differing opinion. Whilst science is not immutable ,when thoroughly peer reviewed and tested it offers a better determinant of policy direction than gut -view founded on  a repeated position that has no substance other than repetition  and having become a received wisdom . In the case of bTB the badger has become the subject of a historic prejudice isolated from other forms of wildlife and the demonised scapegoat of an industry often desperately floundering for a resolution to a problem that destroys  individual farming livelihoods and necessitates the destruction of whole herds.

However, Owen Patterson and #Defra have chosen to represent the issue of bTB not as a matter of concern but as isolated singular terrible disease that has only one solution, despite the availability of vaccines and the calls for a more balanced approach to improve bio-security and increase investment in a vaccine marker that would resolve European concerns . The minister and Defra do not address the issues of #Schmallenberg virus ,#Mastitis , #lameness  and #infertility in cattle herds with anything like the same public vigour or resourced determination.

Owen Paterson has chosen to persuade the farming lobby ,with the tacit support of the #NFU, that  only a cull will resolve the problem of bTB.

Using the best available science I have voiced opposition to the Government stance  and watched with horror the total lack of respect or consideration  for the established science .

In recent days, joining the “badger night-watchers” in Somerset, I have come to realise that the proposed scheme to roll out the cull nationally, as Paterson intimates is his preferred option, would be utterly impracticable in our countryside  given the scope of the local opposition. Even with the best efforts of  Defra it would require enforcement  by the police and possibly the army in a manner not witnessed since the  miners strike of the 1980’s.

I am convinced that Government cannot sustain such a scale of invested political capital at a time of economic difficulty and may have already seriously underestimated the power of regional public opinion which will become  magnified as the weeks  progress.

In the meantime the power  and volume of social media opposing Government reflects the strengthening position of  those resisting Owen Paterson’s increasingly frail arguments.

Campaigning against the cull it’s vital that “industry trolls” promoting the NFU and Defra stance are ignored and not encouraged to take up valuable energy engaging in argument, that has no purpose but to deflect and absorb the reasoned and scientific arguments opposed to the senseless cull .

It “might” have  been a tenuous justification if the culled badgers were subjected to post mortems but ,at this point in time they at merely being targeted to establish the best shooting methodology and their carcasses “abandoned “ignoring whether or not they are infected. Post mortemsch might have given the cull a vestige of scientific credibility but Defra have chosen to ignore even the obvious opportunity in their wisdom.

There will be many more interactions in the coming weeks but  science is opposed to the cull and whilst hardly soft -headed the  cull proponents are poorly misinformed and badly advised.


Asthall Leigh

September 9th 2013



2*where they have recently  “culled” the invasive possum,

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