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An Open Letter

To All Shropshire Farmers

You will all be well aware of the current badger culling trials in the southwest and Owen Paterson has made no secret of his intention to extend this culling next year to other parts of the country and he's specifically mentioned Shropshire. There appears to be plenty of support for this within the farming community but we urge you to seriously consider both the costs and implications of supporting such a scheme. The present culling has generated a huge amount of ill feeling and disruption within the rural communities, not only as a result of the protests but there are farmers both inside and around the culling areas who are strongly opposed to it; the rural communities are drawn into the situation willingly or not, and many thousands of people throughout the country dislike what is happening.

The focus of the ill-feeling is inevitably the farmers within the culling areas and that’s surely understandable since the Government made it very clear that it expects farmers to pay for the culls and to take full responsibility for their successful outcome. BUT... what do you get for your money? lf all the badgers are killed in line with Defra's estimated numbers, that is 70% of an unknown figure, you might, according to many eminent Scientists, see a reduction in the incidence of bovine TB of between 14 and 16% after a total of 9 years. BUT it could make matters worse. If you choose to accept the figure produced by the NFU President, Mr. Kendall, then you could get a 30% reduction but whichever you believe, that still leaves a massive 70 - 85% of the problem within the cattle industry.

You all know that the skin test is inaccurate, regularly identifying healthy cattle as 'positive' and leaving behind infected animals, many of whom are only found when they are eventually slaughtered for other reasons. 50% of newly confirmed cases are found In this way and there ls plenty of evidence that some of these cattle can continue within, and infect, herds, even 'closed herds' for many years. The ‘skin test' is now 50 year old technology and really should have been replaced years ago by the much more accurate Gamma Interferon test but the Government has resisted its general use on the grounds of cost despite the fact that the test identifies infected animals at a much earlier stage thus reducing the potential for further spread of disease.

The eventual solution has to be vaccination of both cattle and badgers; it’s a proven method of dealing with human diseases such as smallpox and polio, and more recently to control measles, and the BCG vaccine has already been very successful against the human form of TB. A slightly modified version is fully approved for badgers and we are already involved in vaccination programs in Shropshire alongside both the Badger Trust and Shropshire Wildlife Trust, primarily carrying out the surveys which reduces the cost considerably.

Badger vaccination has been shown to be very effective; according to the Government research project most uninfected animals develop full immunity; infected animals are less likely to pass on the infection and cubs pick up immunity from their mothers. And all this within four years in a calm and controlled atmosphere plus the bonus that we can work with farmers to help resolve the problem.

On the other hand further culling will generate division, disquiet and disruption and is surely something that you can do without at any time but particularly when you need to have the public firmly behind you in your continuing negotiations with Supermarkets for improved prices and conditions; when you need the public to be your eyes and ears regarding criminal activities as described in detail by one of your Shropshire colleagues in a recent BBC Countryfile magazine; and when you need plenty of public goodwill and understanding during your daily operations.

Confrontation will never be the route to resolving this very difficult problem but we believe we can be part of the solution and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the situation.  Contact us via our Answerphone service 01743 271999 or use the 'Contact Form’ on our website: www.shropshirebadgergroup.co.uk

Shropshire Badger Group

A Registered Charity committed to the protection of badgers in Shropshire.

wvvw.shropshirebadgergroup.co.uk

To download a copy of the letter in PDF format please click HERE

 

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