And so the badger cull continues. And so too the protests, the marches, the debates, the letters to the editor and indeed the opinion columns.
The airwaves, the internet and newspaper columns remain full of debate – and at the weekend anti-cull activists were elated to hear the country's leading disease researchers report that the cull might slow the spread of bovine tuberculosis but will probably never be able to control it. Christl Donnelly, professor of statistical epidemiology at Imperial College London, told a seminar at Cambridge University's Isaac Newton Institute: "The new cull may hold back the disease but may never eradicate it."
And James Wood, professor of farm animal science at Cambridge, joined Donnelly, saying that the best hope for eradicating the disease was the development of vaccines.
Protesters may have been further emboldened by suggestions – as yet not verified officially – that the cull is failing to shoot the requisite number of badgers.
But the anti-cull lobby's elation should not be too great. The development of vaccines is many years away, and Professor Wood concluded, like many others, that the cull was the best available option. The pilot culls were always designed as exactly that – pilots to test how much the incidence of bTB will be reduced.
Everybody knows it will take years to eradicate a disease that is causing misery to farmers and their families, and great suffering among cattle and wildlife. It will not be eradicated without tackling it in the wild.
The cull is a wretched business for all of those involved in it or affected by it, and none will be taking any pleasure in it. The real villains of this piece are the politicians. Continued political procrastination over tackling this blight in our countryside has left us with a problem that is going to take at least 25 years to conquer. That is a heavy price to pay for feeble leadership on an issue where clear and decisive political direction and momentum was urgently required. Until there are viable and effective alternatives, the cull is an unpleasant necessity in restricting the spread of a terrible disease. There is no better way, regrettably.