Farmers do good job, but there have been bad practices
Over the last few weeks there have been several letters and articles in the WMN stressing that farmers should be left to farm and manage their land without interference from others, as farmers are the custodians of the countryside and only they know how to manage it.
Below are a few examples of farming practice over the last few years which I think question this assertion.
the removal of hedgerows resulting in loss of habitat for plants, birds, reptiles, mammals and insects, and also planting extensive areas of monoculture which support very little wildlife.
Excessive use of pesticides that has resulted in loss of fertility in birds of prey and had other damaging effects on wildlife.
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Excessive use of nitrate fertilisers with run-off contaminating watercourses and putting water supplies at risk
The keeping of battery hens in inhumanely small cages
The keeping of pigs with piglets in inhumanely cramped conditions
the keeping of veal calves in inhumanely small crates
The injection of growth hormones into cattle
The transportation of live animals to the continent for slaughter, causing much distress on the journey.
Widespread use of organophosphates for sheep-dipping
Feeding of cattle-derived products to cattle, causing mad cow disease
Use of gin traps to kill rabbits etc
In general I think that farmers do a very good job in difficult economic conditions, but, nevertheless, all of the above have been done in the name of 'farming', usually because of the need to make a modest profit. Sometimes external involvement is necessary to change bad practice.
With regards to bTB we are constantly informed that farm biosecurity has been greatly improved and there is now little more that can be done. Yet, a few months ago there was an article describing how a badger spent much of the winter sharing a building with his cattle.
Another described how a cow would be exhibited at an agricultural show despite the farm only recently coming out of bTB restrictions. This has been put on hold because their farm subsequently tested positive again.
Surely any farmer concerned with biosecurity would not want to risk infecting other farmers' animals at an agricultural show by exhibiting an animal from a recently infected farm.
In fact I'm surprised that any farmer would risk infection by taking their prize animals to an agricultural show knowing that bTB testing is not one hundred per cent accurate.
And, finally, I do think that diseased badgers need to be culled, but I don't believe that random free shooting, which may cause perturbation, and includes killing healthy animals, is the answer to obtaining a healthy badger population or is likely to significantly reduce the occurrence of bTB in cattle.