The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
I can't help being reminded of the dreadful – excuse me, balls-up (the only way I can describe it) that was the Government's response to the foot and mouth crisis last decade.
The badger, last remaining relative of the bear in the UK, is iconic in the English countryside, and is widely reviled by farmers (as well as being so often a road victim; and also trapped and baited with dogs for 'sport' by small gangs of men who see this as a good use of their time and their poor dogs).
I don't wish to villify farmers – I have farming friends and my uncle farmed, plus I know how very hard it is to make a living as a farmer, especially a dairy farmer, and to lose a whole herd, perhaps built up over generations, must be heartbreaking. I also know how the supermarkets are forcing down the price of milk to farmers until the production is utterly unsustainable, and farmer after farmer is selling selling the herd. Nonetheless, I can't help feeling there is a deal of scapegoating going on here. I feel so distressed at our willingness to destroy other creatures if they get in the way of profit – or even if they don't, just in case; and, more, at the Government's willingness to back this as a sop to the farmers despite the fact that the science simply doesn't stack up.
Even vets – and I have spoken with more than one who say this – conclude that it is at least as likely that cattle pass TB to the wildlife as vice versa. But even if the latter were to be found to be true, culling is not the answer. It simply doesn't solve the problem – for it to be even 16% effective, Lord Krebs says, a guaranteed 70% of badgers would need to be shot, and that figure proven – very difficult, since most farmers will not be able to say with any certainty how many badgers are on their land. Badgers are territorial, and once a family group has been removed from an area others will soon move in to their setts; and these too will need to be culled, until finally will there be no badgers left in England?
I still don't understand why we are not vaccinating cattle (and if needs be badgers too). I imagine it's to do with economics – perhaps beef and milk will not be saleable for x weeks after vaccination?
And the real issue is around current intensive farming practices: we so need an overhaul of the way we farm (aka exploit, prey on and use) animals.
Sir David Attenborough features in a video condeming the cull. Brian May, rock star, astrophysicist and animal advocate, spoke intelligently, eloquently and without condemning farmers on behalf of the Badger Trust about the lunacy of this cull on the 'Farming Today' programme.
Shame about the young Gloucestershire farmer that Radio 4 wheeled out later in the day on the news in support of the cull: I imagine he'd been briefed not to say anything too controversial, but what he actually trotted out was not that he wished the badger cull to happen above all to protect the family herd and family income (which would be natural and understandable), but that he wanted to protect all wildlife on the farm from contamination from badgers: unfortunately when he started talking about protecting bumblebees and birds (the inference was from badger-conveyed TB) one realised the widespread depth of prejudice and ignorance about the disease: amongst animals, only cloven-hoofed animals can carry and succumb to TB, so what he was saying made no sense at all and simply fudged the issue. Come on Radio 4 – we need to hear more convincing advocates of the cull, since it is to happen, than that.
I'm not sure what hope there is now. It seems important not to give up, though.
There is more info on the Badger Trust site: http://www.badger.org.uk/Content/Home.asp and Labour have a campaign to stop the cull (I hope this link works): http://www.campaignengineroom.org.uk/can-the-cull
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