Derek Mead: Postponing culls puts us in perilous position
I'm not going to pretend that I'm at all surprised by the shambles that has engulfed the farming world over the badger cull.
Nor, I suspect, will any farmer who has had any kind of dealing with Defra, the RPA or any of its other tentacles in recent years.
But I am sure NFU members will be entitled to ask themselves precisely what has been going on. After all, the decision, when it was announced, had clearly been thought through. Statements had been prepared, letters drafted. Yet only a few days previously NFU vice president Adam Quinney had been urging an immediate start to the cull, warning that time was running out.
This leaves two possible conclusions to be drawn. Either Mr Quinney was fully aware of where the whole mess was heading and was merely putting up a smoke screen to keep farmers' spirits up – or he was being kept in the dark, as NFU President Peter Kendall cut some kind of deal with Owen Paterson. Whichever it was we shall now have to endure another six months of whining by badger-lovers, most of whom know as little about country life as they do about the dark side of the moon, before what was always going to be a flawed operation gets into gear.
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The cull, as currently designed, is like taking an anti-tank grenade to kill a rat. The expertise exists to deliver a far more effective and targeted cull which will only remove diseased badgers, leaving the healthy ones – with which, by and large, we have no argument – behind.
But the Government has so far shown no interest in even listening to a formal presentation on this approach let alone to allowing a trial to take place.
Of course the pro-badger propaganda will be cranked up again over the winter, though with the possibilities of legal challenge exhausted we can presumably expect an early start on the trials once the weather improves.
But farmers – all of us, whether we are for or against the trials as currently designed – need to take every opportunity to stress to the public quite what a perilous position this country is in.
We have an uncontrolled diseased which is killing thousands of beef and dairy cattle a year and is threatening other domesticated species.
Many of the cows that are culled are in-calf, depleting the next generation and threatening the continuing supply of beef and dairy products.
And all this in a country which is now reliant on imports for 65 per cent of its food. That is a scandalous situation which leaves us exposed to severe food shortages. Not that the Government, of course, welcomes such figures being bandied about. People might panic. More to the point it might just undermine its claims to be "supporting British farmers".