Urban population has little knowledge of country matters
I must admit there is a tangible sense of relief in the air around here that the badger culling has finally got underway – though not, of course, without more puerile posturing by those who believe badgers are innocent.
You may have caught the footage of that utterly nonsensical "candlelit vigil" in Minehead the other night. Did you ever witness anything quite so ridiculous? Most of them would have run a mile if a badger with TB suddenly turned up and started coughing in the middle of them all.
But what struck me was just how far towards the horizon of sanity some of these people have strayed. Apparently – according to some of them – this cull is nothing more or less than an anti-badger plot hatched up in a wicked collusion between the Government and the NFU.
The problem is, we are having to deal with two vast reservoirs: one of TB in badgers and the other of public ignorance, though perhaps I should rephrase that and describe it as a knowledge vacuum.
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We have a largely urban population in this country. Unless you are a Young Farmer you generally grow up knowing little of country matters and caring even less and are thus susceptible to being seduced by any bit of emotive twaddle that any pro-badger extremist cares to plant in your mind.
No one listens to the farmers' side because they are all regarded as money-grabbing environmental vandals. And I have to say Peter Kendall (apart from being a cereal farmer) is entirely the wrong man to front up any public contribution from the NFU which, sad to say, has manifestly failed in this instance to get its message across – and not for the first time, I might add.
Add in the fact that those two ninnies from that terminally boring Springwatch nonsense have now added their support to the anti-badgerites (though only in a "personal capacity" apparently – as though that makes any difference) and it's no wonder the populace has such a perverse and twisted view of the facts.
We must, however, plough on to the end of the furrow. TB must be contained and eradicated because sensible people certainly won't want to be coughing up a billion quid more to slaughter thousands more cattle quite needlessly over the next 10 years.
We must also bang on about the threat to food production, even if that sounds like scaremongering, though when for so many people "food" is nothing more than something you buy from the supermarket and heat up in a microwave, making the connection with badgers, TB and farming so that the light finally clicks on in the national consciousness is always going to be a challenge.
Somebody suggested to me the best way of getting the message across would be to halt all burger sales for 48 hours and point out that that's what would happen if all the beef cattle went.
A little bit extreme, but in extreme circumstances extreme measures must be considered.