Thursday, 5 December 2013

The great badger cull disaster

So the badger cull in the South-West of England has been called off, hopefully for good. Natural England has finally pulled the plug, after many months of being told - by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, among others - that it just wouldn't work. 

Ministers set out to kill enough badgers to stop the spread of the tuberculosis that many of them carry through to cattle. It's a terrible disease in livestock, and it causes thousands of fatalities a year. Had the killing worked - if it had ever looked likely to work - a culling programme would probably have been justified. But first the Government ignored all the evidence that shooting badgers has never made any difference to overall disease levels. Then it said that it wasn't going to do any follow up studies or scientific work on the cull at all - so that the limited killings, in only one part of England, wouldn't have any wider applicability whatsoever. Then it failed to get enough of the badgers killed to reach the threshold where culling would do any good anyway, even in the very tightly-drawn boundaries of the test area or the local region.

In the meantime, many hundreds of beautiful, healthy, inoffensive animals have been slaughted. The Government has blown millions of pounds of your money, to absolutely no effect. And killing the healthy animals that marksmen could find, allowing diseased animals to move into their ranges and disrupting a settled situation, has probably made the TB problem worse.

What a disaster. And it's not alone, either. Universal Credit has become a laughing stock. Higher Education tuition fees in England have managed the trick of asking both taxapyers and students to pay more, without giving universities much more money. The Government has to do better soon - or its chances of re-election, even as a minority or in a coalition, will be gone.

And let 'Public Policy and the Past' get this straight: this bungled cull is now, and always was, blinkered, nasty, disgusting, immoral and wrong. The word 'fiasco' doesn't cover it, and all we get out of the Ministry in response is a bland press release. In any honourable world, the Secretary of State - who so memorably said that it was the badgers themselves who had 'moved the goalposts' - would resign immediately.

But of course we don't, and he won't.