Letters: Badger culling will work, but not on its own

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 1 June, 2013

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Scientific research does support the decision to cull badgers to control TB in cattle (leading article, 31 May).

Analysis shows the negative effects of culling in the Randomised Badger Culling Trial disappeared within 18 months after the last cull and that there are lasting benefits up to six years later.

Reducing the size of the wildlife reservoir has led to the elimination of bovine TB as a problem in other countries.

We already use regular TB testing of cattle and slaughter of infected animals and strict cattle movement controls. In addition, considerable effort is being expended to develop usable cattle and badger vaccines. In spite of this, TB is relentlessly spreading through the countryside and we need to use all the tools available to us. The pilot culls will test whether a culling policy based upon experimental evidence can be turned in to one of those operational tools.

Those who do not want culling need to be clear about how they would tackle the disease. The currently available injectable badger vaccine is not a viable method of widespread control in England, and there is less evidence that it is effective at reducing TB in cattle than exists for culling.

Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London SW1

 

The results of the badger culling experiment did not show that culling “only exacerbated the problem” as you state (leading article, 31 May). Within the cull areas, there was a substantial and sustained reduction in the incidence of disease on cattle farms, which lasted for some years longer than the culling programme itself.

Where things were more complicated was in the rim around the culling areas, where the incidence in cattle increased while badger culling was ongoing, but this increase was not sustained after culling ended. In the areas that are being trialled this year, the published calculations are that the overall benefits in reducing cattle disease outweigh the downsides.

What is absolutely clear is that badger culls will not work on their own, and efforts simultaneously to improve the control programme in cattle are equally important.  

James Wood, Alborada Professor of Equine and Farm Animal Science, University of Cambridge

 

The National Farmers Union is not leading the farming community to slaughter without giving the issue of a badger cull any debate (letter, 30 May). We support the Government’s policy to help control TB by using measures including rigorous TB testing for cattle, movement controls, and a cull of badgers in areas where TB is endemic.

The link between badgers, cattle and bovine TB has been proved beyond doubt. The disease is a massive risk to our cattle population and is out of control. Thousands of farmers are living with the threat of bovine TB hanging over their businesses and families and they need to see action.

Last year, 38,000 cattle were slaughtered because of this disease. There is no single solution, but the best scientific information, and the experience of other countries around the world, shows we need a multi-faceted approach. This includes tackling the disease in wildlife through targeted culling.

The idea that the two pilot culls are likely to eradicate badgers from many areas of England is completely wrong. The two culls will be carried out in specific areas, under licence, by trained professionals to ensure they are safe, effective and humane. Culls will only ever be carried out in areas where TB is endemic and will never be carried out nationwide.

Tom Hind, Director of Corporate Affairs, National Farmers’ Union, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

 

Brutalist gem or barracks  in the sky?

I found Owen Hatherley’s nomination of the Brownfield Estate in Poplar as one of London’s “architectural gems” (“The beauty of bus depots”, 30 May) quite revealing. Why did he choose that development and not the much finer Lansbury estate a little further west? I imagine that what prompted the nomination was the estate’s proximity to Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower. 

Balfron Tower is an icon to the architectural establishment but it isn’t to me. As a teenager I watched it going up at the end of my street. My family and our neighbours dreaded the prospect of being sent there under the slum clearance scheme. We called it “the Barracks” and it became a symbol of the threat to our community.

We wanted houses; no one wanted a flat, especially in Goldfinger’s gruesome tower. Where would children play? What happens when the lifts break down? Who would be looking out when criminals came by?

Nobody listened to us because idealists like Goldfinger knew best. The fact that my father kept a garden in our back yard, that our neighbours raced pigeons and others had dogs meant nothing.

We pleaded to be given a house on the Lansbury Estate but were refused. Eventually we gave up trying to stay in Poplar and were rehoused in Essex, although we didn’t want to go.  

Goldfinger lived for a few months in his tower and declared it a great success. An urban motorway was cut through what remained of the street below, and with that a good community in east London was lost for ever.

When identifying gems, it would be wise to remember that architecture is a process just as much as it is a product.

Joe Connolly

Bishops’ Stortford, Hertfordshire

 

Media circus at a gay wedding

I’m a gay man, and fully in favour of same-sex marriage.

But I’d have a lot more respect for France’s first gay marriage if they’d done it quietly like a proper wedding instead of inviting 150 journalists and turning it into a media freak show (report, 30 May). The younger groom looked distinctly uncomfortable with all the posturing.

It always annoys me when equality isn’t enough. The gobbier members of the “gay community” (whatever that is supposed to be) over here spend so much time and energy campaigning that they don’t realise they’re putting people off.

The battle had been won. It was bad form to stamp the defeated’s head into the ground.

Paul Harper, London E15

 

Victims can’t  prevent rape

By employing his Sarajevo sniper analogy, Philip Anthony (letter, 30 May) implies that women and men are at war. Perhaps Mr Anthony would now define “taking responsibility” in a non-battle context. How do potential rape victims, young and old, male and female, ensure that they are not irresponsibly bringing about their own rape?

Many instances of rape occur in a domestic setting – what is the irresponsible behaviour being condemned there? Simply being female seems to be enough.

The burka aside, how do we avert this unpredictable danger? Our most mature and constructive response to the crisis of rape must include interrogating those smug, thoughtlessly sexist beliefs which suggest that rape victims bring rape upon themselves.

Karen Jones, London SW19

 

Cheap justice for the poor

May I remind your readers that they have until 4 June to register a protest at the cuts and “reforms” of legal aid being pushed through by the Ministry of Justice.

Under Chris Grayling’s price-competitive tendering system we stand to lose our small high-street solicitor firms who know the problems of their clients, and find in their place big multiple-contract operators who, no doubt attracted by the prospect of fixed fees and minimum outlay, will use overworked, underpaid and inexperienced paralegals to represent some of the most vulnerable in society. No longer will those who cannot afford to go private have any choice over their access to justice.

The estimated saving – under £220m by 2018 – takes no account of the solicitors and support staff who will be made unemployed and is fairly paltry when set against the huge amounts escaping the national coffers in tax evasion.

Alan J Fisher, Finstock, Oxfordshire

 

Get paedophile porn off the net

After the murder of April Jones by the paedophile Mark Bridger it was found that Bridger was obsessed with images of kids being sexually abused, storing foul pornography on his laptop. Governments worldwide must unite and force the internet to remove any filth, not just extreme, which must fuel such deranged desires.

David Cameron and other politicians make the point that they are family men. Now for the sake of the family of April Jones they must act with urgency so that her death will not be in vain.

John Connor, Dunfermline, Fife

 

Medical mystery

Further to Grace Dent’s column (30 May), can anyone with medical training please explain, in simple terms, why it should not be a matter of national outrage that a British hospital has seen fit to discharge a patient who still has drains inserted in a wound following surgery? Words fail me.

Jennifer Phipps, Cardington, Bedfordshire

 

Act of equality

David Keating wonders, if the word “actress” is deleted, what would happen to Best Actress awards (Letter, 30 May). Perhaps they could be renamed, “Best Actor – Female”.

Keith O’Neill, Shrewsbury

 

If “actress” and other gender-defined titles are to be discarded, what will the Queen have to call herself?

Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex

 

Age of rockers

Can I thank Mick Jagger for restricting or even banning the BBC from broadcasting coverage of the Rolling Stones’ performance at Glastonbury. There is plenty of footage of the real Rolling Stones on YouTube rather than this awful tribute band he continues to hawk round the stadiums of the world charging ridiculous ticket prices.

Tim Johnson, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

 

Dizzy spell

In spite of what Professor Simon Horobin says, spelling is important. Today I received an email about someone’s gardening progress this year; he said that he had taken a gambol with his courgettes. The mind boggles.

Sigrid Stamm, Lympstone, Devon

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