Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Badger cull in Wales : doing something ends up in the right thing being done ?

I was out running one evening in the hills to the east of Llandinam in mid Wales and came across a Badger which in day light (about 8pm in June) is unusual, but it was quite a remote area. We looked at each other for about 20 seconds and then went our separate ways. I have seen lots of Badgers, mostly at night, but never been that close to one and had time to share (we wondered what each other were and if we posed a threat to each other and how we should react). I wonder what its view on the cull of Badgers in Wales was?

I have tried to read as much of the science as I can find. What I did find was inconclusive either way. It gave little force to any argument about a cull or vaccination or do nothing or do something else. What is clear is that it is costing a lot of money. What I don't understand is if there is the potential for TB as carried by Badgers to jump to Humans. There is no right and wrong decisions, just a set of tradeoffs where many parameters are either ill-understood, or qualitative.

I think we are seeing a strange kind of democracy at work here. Elin Jones via the Welsh Assembly Government does something "orders a cull", the Badger Trust use that rather hard to aim democratic tool called "legal review" which exposes possible flaws in the original plan (or just perhaps the implementation), judge says STOP and we go round the loop again with a new plan being put forward, attempts made to chop it down ........

What is worrying is the time taken for "something" to happen. Once round the loop takes at least a year. If this became a threat to human health (maybe it is, I don't know, thats what comments are for) and Murdocks Empire started calling for a Badger cull, the UK would be near Badger free in a couple of weeks.

We should be positive about what Elin Jones and W.A.G. are trying to achieve in terms of reducing the incidence of TB in cattle, they are doing something. I am not a Badger lover myself, but there is credit due to the Badger Trust and friends for questioning both the tactics and strategy. Their currency is a healthy badger population, in contrast W.A.G. is driven by the great British Pound. As a society we need a more timely method of deciding how to overcome these sorts of challenges where head and heart are at conflict and the science is partial, rather than legal challenge. It expensive and time wasting, but at least in its own way it is democratic.

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