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Starting Back and parallel lessons

December 4, 2013

Have willingly distracted myself by total immersion in the Gloucestershire #badgercull it’s time to reflect on the parallel experiences and lessons to be learnt.

Both issues of #Climate Change and #bTB represent a failure to observe the warnings of good science in preference for political expediency and avoiding inconvenient truths.

Decades of research into bTB clearly demonstrated that pursuit of better animal husbandry and development of either vaccines or genetic resistant cattle breeding would be more efficacious , but lost out to a conviction politician personalised prejudices .Defra Minister Owen Paterson , claimed that science was “subjective” and he preferred to make “a judgement” on the issue of culling badgers.

Without any scientific endorsement he proceeded against all advice and failed abysmally to deliver his chosen strategy, refusing to acknowledge any criticism and continuing even now to persist against the tide of evidence and public approbation.

Like climate “deniers” Paterson refuses to admit of any body of scientific opinion .Interestingly the Independent Science Group ISG was disbanded to enable the new Minister an uncontested  platform for his “opinion” and finding singular support from the National Farmers Union who “recycled” easily repeated myths about badgers as primary vectors of bTB to avoid the reality poor bio-security and laxly regulated cattle movements were the more probable factor; but too difficult to implement without upsetting the farming community they represented.

Science was never going to overcome entrenched prejudice and “fact” was not penetrating deeply ingrained traditional explanations The extent of perturbation and the outcome of the failed #badgercull is yet to unfold but the divisive and bitter engagement of farmers and opponents is an exposed wound that may not heal easily if bTB increases.

Bovine tuberculosis it should be pointed out is only one of several cattle infections and relatively minor compared to issues of lameness, mastitis and Schoenberg’s disease . Not in anyway trying to ignore or diminish the wider problems of cattle farmers, but in terms of perspective, farmers need to address their own broader issues rather than be indignant when science illuminates the problems they complain about .

I believe the economic issues complained of by the agricultural industry and Government in relationship to bTB are of less import in reality than the need to “enable” our countryside to be utilised increasingly as a recreational hunting amenity where predation by native species is inconvenient and seen as disruptive  to commercial interests. Much of the incorporated cull zone had few dairy farms and the most vigorous supporters were the members of “hunting fraternity” . The much vaunted “ countryside” is increasingly sterile and devoid of traditional stoats ,weasels ,foxes and hawks that are systematically purged to avoid disruption to shooting syndicates.

The importance of stable  eco-systems is an argument of fragile inter-relationships that once disrupted mutate and do not always re-establish.We probably do not yet fully appreciate the consequences of our pursuit of managed, modified, rural eco-systems and our brutal indifference.

The climate deniers increasingly are identifiable as naked apologists for commercial interests  that are not prepared to either acknowledge the need to change our ways nor  prepared to discuss a committed “managed down” reduction of activity that would intimate we are rationally trying to avert environmental self destruction.

The commonality is the complete ignoring of available good science by government and commercial interests that have no commitment to change or adaptation to avoid the consequences of their indifference.  Our problem is… these commercial interests will take all of us with them .

Resisting the initial badgercull and it’s extension was relatively easy involving carefully applied non violent direct action to frustrate Defra’s planning. Opposing climate change is vastly more complex and of several greater magnitudes of scale.

One fears that it will be cataclysmic weather events and collapse of whole agrarian economic sectors that may provoke the understanding of the gravity of our position. Entrenched vested interests are not prepared to alter existing policies and practices for fear of losing market position to rivals .

Most governments are too preoccupied with short term existence and navigating today’s event horizon.

The one good lesson of the opposition to Owen Paterson’s badgercull was that dedicated and purposeful small groups can stand upto government at least in the short term. As for the longer term we shall have to wait and see if rational behaviour and science prevail over dogma and self interest.


Asthall Leigh Dec 04 2013


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