I was rather saddened to read today that the much-trailed cull of badgers is to go ahead despite there not being much in the way of evidence that it will have any positive effect.
It is yet another example of ‘tackle-out’ politics, a concept I have elaborated on previously on these pages. It’s the usual response when politicians don’t actually know what to do but have a powerful lobby demanding action: they just create the impression that they are ‘doing something’, regardless of what that is. Inaction is the one thing to be avoided at all costs.
The big gesture is always preferred. It could be building a big airport, or it could be killing a suitably large number of animals. Either way, the sledge-hammer approach looks better, apparently, although I don’t know too many people who are really taken in by it.
In this case up to a 100,000 badgers will be slaughtered to pander to the whims of our ever-so-popular and ever-so-trustworthy farmers. A couple of paragraphs in the Guardian piece reporting the story give the game away:
A decade-long scientific trial of badger culling concluded that such killing could make “no meaningful contribution”, and was “not an effective way” to control the disease. But the government is going forward with the plan under intense pressure from British farmers………
…….The last Labour government said an oral badger vaccine would be ready by 2015. The coalition cancelled five of six trials of injectable vaccines, and said a viable oral vaccine was “years away”.
Even though it probably won’t work, we need to do something. And we need to do it now. Anything that might take a few years to come through is just too far away, even though bovine TB isn’t exactly bringing the farming sector to its knees right now. Irritant is the word I would use to describe the disease. Someone made the point that the elephant in the room is the transportation of animals from farms that are under a TB ‘quarantine’. Wouldn’t it be wiser for farmers to get their own, profit-driven house in order, before browbeating the government into green-lighting a needless slaughter?
Farmers do seem to be treated a bit differently and I’m sure we all know why. Take for example the recent furore over milk prices.
Now the farmers had a reasonable case. The supermarkets were and are taking the piss in terms of the money they are offering for a pint of milk, especially when you consider the profits they make.
The farmers blockaded dairies up and down the country to make their point in the strongest terms possible. Again, I don’t particularly have a problem with that (although my understanding is what they did was technically illegal…….so much for Tory voters believing in the sanctity of the rule of law………)
But can you imagine the outcry if a group of trade unionists had used similarly aggressive tactics in a workplace dispute? Would they have had supportive editorials in the Telegraph or Daily Mail? Or would there have been a hysterical response and demands from those papers to bring the full force of the law down on the ‘wreckers’ and ‘militants’?
I’m sure you know the answer.
The slaughter of tens of thousands of animals to satiate the desires of one of the country’s most reactionary lobby groups is a disgrace. And it’s a slaughter that tells us a lot about where power and influence reside in Britain.