Wildlife campaigners will be holding a peaceful walk of protest around the outside of the Highgrove Estate of the Prince of Wales this weekend. What is concerning them is the possible extension of the badger cull into Herefordshire where the Duchy of Cornwall owns a number of farms. The badger cull started in 2013 in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset as a Defra based initiative to try and reduce the number of beef and dairy cattle contracting bovine tuberculosis. In August 2015, the scheme was rolled out to Dorset.
There have been TB problems at both Highgrove and the Gatcombe Estate belonging to the Princess Royal, and both Prince Charles and Princess Anne have championed the idea of culling badgers by various means to arrest the increase of TB.
The protest is being led by local organiser and Badger Trust Chairman, Peter Martin, he said: “The purpose of our walk is to draw attention to the desperate need for the government to improve its response to the problem of TB in cattle. By wasting so much time and public money concentrating on badgers, the disease has been allowed to spread through inadequate cattle testing, movement controls and basic husbandry practices. We feel that if the Royals could acknowledge this then it would prove immensely useful in finally conquering this disease for the benefit of cattle, wildlife and farmers.”
At this time, there has not a credible infection pathway by which badgers could infect cattle, although they are known to be a major carrier of the disease. They are also a protected animal under the Berne Convention and any culling of them needs to be authorised by direction of Parliament. There have also been suggestions of other possible methods of infection, the first being by fallow deer, which are also carriers and the second can be traced back to the Foot & Mouth epidemic of 2001. Allegedly, some of the replacement cattle supplied to farmers to replace stock lost were not adequately checked for bovine TB.
This is a debate between wildlife campaigners and farmers that will continue until the cull clearly establishes one way or another how effective it has been.
Photo credit: Andy Gott via Flickr CC