Friday, 23 September 2011

Is it right to cull?

A few weeks ago, around the time the British Government announced proposals that would approve the culling of badgers in certain areas of the UK in an attempt to curb and limit incidents of Bovine TB, I saw this badger as it headed for the woods.
The issue of Bovine TB is a complex one, costing an estimated £90 million in the UK in 2010, which throws up many questions and dilemmas. The major trial conducted several years ago suggested that if a cull took place on an area of 150km2,  bovine TB would be expected to reduce by 16% over nine years.
The impact of the disease is significant on farmers and the government's proposals place strict controls on those affected if they wish to gain a licence to cull in a certain area.
It also seems that viable cattle and oral badger vaccination products are some way off, however it strikes me that the localised eradication of a species is an extreme reaction for such a statistically small percentage drop in incidence.
No doubt the financial argument holds up to scrutiny but does the moral one? Should our reaction to disease in our food chain put economics before wildlife - inhabitants of our environment that in most cases were here long before we were?

Waiting for the carpenter

I was late going into work this morning as I wanted to meet the carpenter who is putting in a couple of gates for us. So, whilst waiting, I took a cup of coffee into the garden to enjoy the warm September sunshine.
In the field behind us I could see a magpie tearing at the body of a fallen wood pigeon, the feather scatter stretching out from the corpse in all directions. By the front gate I could see the muddy grass had been heavily disturbed during the night - 'snouted' is my new word for the activity - most likely by a badger looking for worms and other morsels in the damp litter.
And as I stood on the steps in back garden my eye was caught by movement below in the fading flowers and plants. At first I thought it was a bumble-bee, perhaps struggling for warmth to get it's flying motors running. Another look however revealed it to be a tiny shrew, pushing it's way through the stems and leaves. A first sighting in the garden from memory and a lovely way to start a Friday morning.
Common or Eurasian Shrew Sorex araneus - photo from Wikimedia Commons