Roman Jones sometimes writes letters in the Montgomeryshire County Times, and this week's is about badger culling. This is one area where he and I disagree. Roman doesn't share my support for the National Assembly's decision to conduct a trial badger cull somewhere in Wales to establish whether such action would help control the spread of Bovine Tb. But it has spawned this post, which asks when are we going to hear the timescale for the Assembly's decision to be implemented.
Not many people outside the farming and animal welfare communities are engaged with this debate - which is why I'm blogging about it. Its highly controversial and opinion is deeply opposed. Its what might be called a 'black and white' issue. This week's Farmer's Gaurdian has gone big on how it effects England's farmers. Latest figures show that the number of cattle culled as a result of Bovine Tb in England has increased by 40% to 17,000 in the last year. 9% of English livestock farms are under movement restriction. Thousands of bull calves, not needed as replacements are being shot at birth as a result of an (unofficial) ban imposed by European countries. The food and animal health committee in Brussels (SCoFCAH) is discussing official sanctions on cattle exports because of the disease. There is also reference to the possible re-emergence of a link between Bovine Tb and humans, though personally I disapprove of this sort of talk without hard evidence. And Defra vets are supposedly in a state of deep depression, as they seek to deal with a disease through slaughtering all the cattle effected, while leaving reservoirs of infection in the badger populations.
Any decision to cull badgers will be strongly resisted, and huge amounts of money will be ploughed into legal challenges. It takes a Minister with real 'b****' to sanction a cull. Hilary Benn, responsible Minister for England is not blessed with the necessary equipment and has decided to do nothing except tighten rules on cattle farmers - the equivalent of a householder tackling increases in theft by putting double locks on all the windows while leaving the front door wide open - adorned with a sign saying "Help yourself".
Welsh Minister, Elin Jones took a brave decision in the spring of this year. This blog, along with many others applauded her for it. But its approaching time for delivery. Several months have passed while she has pondered where the 'pilot' area is going to be located. I accept she has to proceed with certainty and care. I also accept that the inevitable legal challenges will have to be properly anticipated. The Assembly is back in session in two weeks time. If I was still an Assembly Member, my first question to the Minister would be "where's the action?"