It was going to be easy with the country boys in charge
The badger cull?
It was all going to be so easy, wasn't it?
All that was needed was a Conservative government, a Conservative government that instinctively understood the countryside. Not the Labour government that had put a vegetarian, Hilary Benn, to head up Defra, not the Labour party that was antipathetic to the countryside, not the Labour government that was in thrall to animal rights money.
Yes, all that was needed was a Conservative government, and there would be a badger cull, and bovine TB would be on the way out.
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But it hasn't worked that way.
The cull is a poor joke. Did farmers really believe that the best the Tories would mandate is a 70% cull? A cull that should actually delight the badger defenders (even if it worries most competent scientists) as it is leaving 30% of badgers alive? Did farmers, when they voted Conservative, realise that the "Humane, well-managed and scientifically based cull" in the manifesto would leave this 30% of badgers alive, safe on the touchline, and waving two derisory claws at the shooters? And that these badgers would still be infected with bovine TB and ready to breed and expand into the ecological spaces left as soon as the land had been culled over and the shooters had moved on?
And recall, please. Labour "prevaricated" and "dithered" on a cull. But what have Cameron ("I'm a country boy at heart") and Paice and Paterson and all the others done? Stand back and take a clearer look. It is now three and a half years into this Conservative government and what have you got? All you have got so far are two egregiously failed pilot culls with a scramble for scarce trap-and-shoot cages and a budget-wrecking three week extension. No proper cull could now start until next year; four years after the Conservatives came to power. That is if it starts at all – for the courts may take a grim view of this shambles that is now ignoring Defra's and English Nature's own carefully argued and science-based guidelines. And it's now damned if you do, damned if you don't, for the science shows that if you don't shoot enough badgers the disease will spread (and not enough have been shot) and if you don't shoot all the badgers within the maximum six week window (and the window has been extended) the disease will also spread.
The Conservatives have sold farmers a lemon – a partial 70% cull, at their expense, and a culling target that can neither be achieved in numbers or within time. And the NFU bought their lemon.
It was all going to be so easy, wasn't it? Just vote in the Tories – "who understand the countryside". Or could it just be that Labour had looked dispassionately at the evidence, and had listened to the economists and scientists – and had correctly decided a cull could not be made to work?