A cull won't solve our farming problem, so stop blaming the badgers

Bovine tuberculosis in cattle causes emotional and financial havoc, but it's time for farmers to stop looking to a badger cull - it won't solve anything.

Share
Related Topics

I’ve been a hill farmer for forty years so I know a thing or two about cattle. I also know quite a bit about badgers because near our farm in north west Northumberland we have several badger setts in the valley. Our badgers and the cows in this valley live happily side by side without incident and without a single case of bovine tuberculosis in cattle on farms in this area.

The government and the National Farmers Union would have people believe that the only solution to controlling the devastating scourge of bTb, is to kill thousands of badgers. I think that’s nonsense. Shooting badgers is a pointless exercise, a short-term, ineffective, sticky-plaster on the gaping wound that is bovine tuberculosis.

I have firsthand experience of bTB, I know the immense emotional and financial havoc that it brings to hard-working, hard-pressed farmers and I understand how desperate they are to see something done to make it go away. But for the government to stubbornly pursue a badger cull when all the scientific and conservation common sense tells us it simply won’t work, is ultimately not going to help farmers. And farmers themselves have got to come to terms with that inconvenient truth.

Jim Paice, the former DEFRA Minister said that doing nothing was not an option. Of course not, but doing the wrong thing is even worse. Culling badgers is very likely to spread bTb to previously uninfected areas. Badgers are timid creatures who are also socially mobile. The badgers on our land don’t just stick to their own setts, they move from sett to sett with a number of satellite setts in between. Badgers under attack will run beyond their territory and if that happens, we could end up with a far bigger bTb problem on our hands than ever before.

Killing badgers is also morally bankrupt because it’s diverting much-needed funds and energy away from tackling the fundamental root causes of the TB problem. For as long as this government is obsessed with culling badgers, it’s not focusing on measures to reduce TB on farms and that’s where we need to get to grips with it.

My own observation is that bTb hot-spots tend to be in areas where you have dairy farms with ever increasing intensification of cattle. Intensive farming methods are focused on increasing profit by increasing yield from ever more pressured animals who, inevitably, become more stressed and therefore more vulnerable to disease.

Intensification of dairy farming in particular, is a growing problem borne of market pressures. The dairy sector is already under enormous financial hardship, with farmers working long hours for decreasing returns. Their solution? Buy more cows and increase their milk production. It’s a terrible downwards spiral that leads to poor cattle welfare, low immunity and a disease disaster waiting to happen.

To truly tackle bTB and other diseases like mastitis, we need to detensify cattle farming and stop pushing animals to the very limit. That is precisely what the NFU should be telling farmers, not helping them on to the badger culling bandwaggon. But the NFU is little more than a self-serving bureaucracy more interested in its own survival. 

We bought our current farm thirteen years ago and we’ve done an immense amount of work to enhance and encourage wildlife and rich biodiversity. We’ve created woodlands and habitats and in so doing, farmed using methods that are in harmony with nature. On our farm we run self-catering holiday cottages, embracing eco-tourism and sharing our passion for wildlife. Our visitors get up close and personal with nature, even having footage of our badgers and barn owls streamed live into every cottage. We are living proof that if you treat the natural world around you with respect and live in balance with nature, badgers and other wild animals are far from being the enemy, they are a wonderful delight to be treasured and protected.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game