The BBC is reporting around 5000 badgers are expected to be shot in the controversial badger cull, an effort which is intended to halt the spread of bovine tuberculosis in Great Britain. Many farmers are in favor of the efforts to help protect their beef, but just as many remain unconvinced.
A letter from the National Farmers' Union's president, Peter Kendall, defends the effort, saying that the badger cull is "an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry."
Although bovine tuberculosis, or bTB, is not considered a massive health threat to humans, its contagiousness is substantial. Supporters of the badger culling believe that controlling the creatures in the wild is necessary to prevent more bTB from infecting healthy cows. Activist detractors feel that the efforts are inhumane and will consequently exterminate Great British badgers.
The UK's Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, has said that the bTB problem needed to be dealt with using "every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly... If we had a workable vaccine we would use it... a vaccine is at least 10 years off." Although the activists are suggesting the British government simply caved in to farmers' demands, Paterson denies that suggestion. "In the Republic of Ireland the disease was rocketing until they began to cull," he quipped.
The Labour Party's Shadow Environment Secretary, Mary Creagh, believes that badger culling is "not the answer" and that "The government's own figures show it will cost more than it saves and it will spread bovine TB in the short term as the badgers are disturbed and spread infection to neighbouring herds... we agree with the scientists that it has no meaningful contribution to play in tackling bovine TB."
Twitter reactions seem overwhelmingly anti-badger culling:
The most effective way to get the attention of Dairy Farmers involved in the Badger Cull is to stop buying their products.
— Boothby Graffoe (@boobygraffoe) August 27, 2013
— Andrew Kelly (@AndrewKellyhome) August 27, 2013
— Mary Creagh MP (@marycreagh_mp) August 27, 2013
The badger cull has begun in Somerset.It's a very sad day for British conservation.How can our government allow this to happen?
— Michaela Strachan (@michaelastracha) August 27, 2013
Some activists have gone as far to offer money to farmers who signed up to cull badgers in order to convince them to pull out. For more on this hotly debated topic, including a diagram of heavily infected areas, see the BBC's story.[Image via a pretty Youtube video of a badger in wet grass]