Control landowners, not badgers – that’s the real answer to bovine TB

15 November 2010 | The Guardian | George Monbiot

“…As Bourne points out, the two governments are ignoring not only the science but also the history of bovine TB control. In the 1960s the disease was almost eliminated through rigorous testing of cattle herds and strict quarantine. It was when these measures were relaxed, at the behest of the industry, that the disease began to spread.

…So why commission £49m of research then shred it? Because the National Farmers’ Union wants to see blood, and it is neither prepared to wait nor to accept measures as tough as Bourne proposes. Up and down the country it is whipping up farmers to demand that badgers are killed. Yesterday I spoke to a tenant farmer who had just attended an NFU meeting that unanimously supported the cull. A question revealed that not one of the farmers in the room had read the consultation document: they simply accepted the NFU’s word that the killing had to happen.

Under this government, the NFU rules. According to the small farmers I know, it tends to be dominated by the biggest and most arrogant landowners – rather like the Tory party.”

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Bourne refers to Professor John Bourne, Chairman of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) that oversaw the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), a major government-funded research programme that examined the effects of badger culling bovine TB. The ISG concluded that cattle-based measures, such as improved testing, stricter controls on cattle movement both on and off-farm would have a far bigger contribution to reducing bovine TB than killing badgers.