As a young boy I often sat up of a Sunday morning to watch the wind in the willow TV program on RTE. The character Ratty, Moley and Toad defined a part of my young life. The most memorable character Badger was a wise if some what grumpy animal.
The badger today is not so celebrated by our rural community, a creature of hate amongst those who have suffered the dreaded TB results, a creature of love by Wildlife enthusiast as one of our largest mammals in the country it seems always to be a creature of polar opinions.
The news of the recent English cull of badgers has thrown up a not too surprising result; 10,000 dead badgers but a political and scientific community divided as to the benefit of the program. Indeed a near decade long study in the UK recently found that the badger was no more a greater cause of TB and that the most dangerous cause of spreading TB was other cows.
Don’t think this was some fly by night study it was carried out by the British Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Indeed the study went further to say The bacteria itself does not need a host animal and can survive in fields for months and that the bacteria can be spread by slurry spreading too.
So what’s to be done? The capture and inoculate program? Where wild badgers are trapped and those not infected inoculated and released while their infected brothers are put down. Its one model that wildlife groups support but does it get results? Well we simply don’t know. And why is this? Well our own department of Agriculture have been slow to release findings on TB programs and on what does and doesn’t work.
It’s clear a near decade long eradication program to drive the badger into extinction hasn’t worked. Its cost millions of euro and the disease and the badger are still here.
It seems a strange thing but when we actually try to exterminate a species we can’t seem to do it while we can knock of others such as the corncrake without much of a sweat.
I’ve never had animals go down with TB on our farm at home thankfully but I do know of neighbours who have suffered that dreaded news, more than once his animals were tested positive and retested and in the end were destroyed. He restocked with a new herd and the problem ended there. Raising the question was the weakness in the herd itself? I don’t know.
The reality is TB rates are lower in Ireland than a decade ago (yes they are rising in Wales but that’s a different country and their vaccination and cull program was a disaster). New vaccines have been introduced to the badger population and indeed trials for the last four years have been occurring in my own county of Longford . The trail results of the vaccine showed that TB rates were at levels similar to areas that were subjected to a targeted cull. A good result? One have to would agree.
The TB eradication program costs close to €53 million annually. It’s a war that we are never going to totally win. So why drive a species to extinction over it? It’s an emotive issue but sometimes we have to stop and ask the question what if before its too late.
Interestingly our recent readers poll on badgers recived a huge response the public and our readers have spoken loudly and let us know their thoughts on the issue.
88% not in favour of badger cull
87% think that badgers should be left unharmed and that the badger cull does not solve the TB issue
94% believe more work needs to be put into treating cattle as opposed to badgers to eradicate TB
So it seems our readers too feel that the current model doesnt work. Its time to stop and think about the future of all badger plans; the most political of our irish animals deserves more thought and consideration.