Farming practices hold key to bTB problem
Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater, is quoted in an article in the Western Daily Press (September 7) as saying that the dead badger dumped on his doorstep was, he assumed, delivered by people protesting the cull.
An assumption is not proof and carries absolutely no authority. This could just as easily have been done by an 'agent provocateur' attempting to blacken the reputation of the anti-cull movement and its law-abiding members.
Only the killer knows the history behind this badger's demise. My view is that I know of no one in the badger protest movement who would bludgeon or poison a badger to death to make some kind of cruel point – it goes against everything we stand for.
Mr Liddell-Grainger continues by assuming that all badger cull protesters are "scrounging, malingering, and benefit cheque-waiting" individuals – another series of sweeping inaccuracies. Speaking as an employed anti-cull individual, I take personal issue with Mr Liddell-Grainger's assumption that every peaceful, law-abiding person in the anti-cull movement is a scrounger, malingerer or benefit wastrel.
I am saddened he knows so little about the people in this movement who, for the most part, are gentle folk seriously concerned about the dwindling protection offered to our wildlife and countryside.
Opposition to the badger cull is nationwide and based very firmly upon the facts and science around bTB and badgers. Protesters are conscious of the complexities of the bTB issue and its devastating effects upon farmers, and certainly have no argument with farmers for trying to find a workable solution to the disease.
Anyone who researches badgers/cattle and bovine TB will soon discover what needs to happen if this disease is to be more effectively controlled in the British herd. The problem is that it is up to farmers and not badgers to do something about it.
Compensation versus the mineral lick
According to Christopher Broadbent, from the Robertsbridge Group, we are already spending £91 million of taxpayers' money compensating farmers for infected cattle. The issue would appear to be that by blaming badgers it is the UK taxpayer who foots the bill, whereas if the farming industry were to shoulder responsibility for bTB the industry would have to pay the costs from within itself; immediately losing access to millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.
Farmer Dick Roper, from Eastington, Gloucestershire, discovered that the soil on one of his farms where bTB was active was seriously lacking in selenium and vitamin E – both vital for a healthy immune system.
His cattle on that particular farm were fed on maize (corn) – something which badgers love to eat. Maize is also deficient in selenium and vitamin E and so can lead to depressed immune systems. Mr Roper totally eradicated bTB from his farm by introducing mineral licks for the cattle and badgers – a cheap and easy alternative to badger and cattle slaughter, but not as lucrative. I believe I am right in saying that payouts (from taxpayers' money) to a farmer for an infected animal range from £74 for a three-month-old male to £1,573 for a calved female (as of March 2012).
Some facts about bovine TB, cattle and badgers
■ In the 1960s, the UK was entirely free of bovine TB. Badgers were living in and around our farms without any bTB problems.
■ There are no badgers on the Isle of Man, yet they still have bTB in their cattle.
■ Scotland is free of bTB and yet badgers exist in and around their herd.
■ bTB rates are twice as high in Ireland, where badger culling has been so fierce they are extinct in many areas.
Real and workable solutions to bTB in cattle
Some respectable scientists believe cattle must meet several conditions before they can catch TB. These include climate history, certain vitamin deficiencies, compromised immune systems, intensive living conditions, a high-stress lifestyle, plus a lack of natural immunity to and multiple exposure to the TB bacteria.
They believe cattle raised in natural field-based conditions, on mineral rich grass, with minimum use of antibiotics and other drugs, with a low-stress, organic lifestyle are much less likely to succumb to TB.
Farmers need to:
■ Increase farm bio-security.
■ Give the herd more natural foods rather than the concentrates they are fed today.
■ Provide less stressful living conditions and return to more sustainable and non-intensive farming methods.
■ Provide mineral licks.
In conclusion, improved overall farming practices based on non-intensive, more natural husbandry is the real way to eradicate this disease, not the culling of badgers.