There has been a lot of interest in the plight of badgers in the last few weeks, with just days to go before the possible killing of thousands of these wild animals it is hard not to be swept along with the passion of the debate whether you are pro or against the cull.
Being a non-meat eater for ethical reasons my natural instinct is to abhor the idea of killing any animal for profit and this post reflects my view on the subject, if you would like to add to the discussion I would appreciate hearing your views.
Since this debate has been going on I have read articles from people on both sides of the argument and tried to make sense of some of the scientific papers that are prolific on the net.
I was reading some interesting material in Wikipedia regarding the history of TB, the latest research suggests that TB was originally a human disease that transmuted to animals and that it was farming practices some 6000 years ago that started the problems in farm animals which went on to cause so many problems through all those years and is still with us now.
The point of mentioning this is that it is us the humans who have caused a problem which has killed millions of wild and domesticated animals through our farming practices and yet it is the wild animals that have to suffer the consequences.
So I write this post from the view-point of a non-meat eater who would prefer we didn’t eat meat at all but who would rather see a terrible situation improved if not resolved.
Over the years we have genetically engineered farm animals to be more and more productive in terms of meat and milk production. Many scientists are commenting that whilst the engineering has improved meat and milk production it has been at the expense of the ability to fight off diseases. so are we responsible for causing this problem and spreading disease through our wildlife?
As BTB is a respiratory disease spread by close contact isn’t it a fact that intensive farming techniques especially the indoor systems provide the ideal environment for the disease to spread?
Where cattle are grazed outside they are very often strip grazed requiring that the animals eat all the grass in a specific area every day, if the area for the day is in the same proximity as a badger trail or droppings doesn’t this force the cattle to eat close to possible sources of infection?
When cattle are bought and sold it is normally through markets, the risk of cross infection from animals crammed together in pens must be very high, isn’t this one of the biggest causes of the spread of the disease?
The badger is just one species of wild animal, there are many who live in proximity to farmed animals including deer and birds who can carry disease, if the badger cull works is the plan then to expand the idea and cull other species as well?
My ideas for reducing reducing the risk of this disease would be;
- Breed cattle for hardiness and resistance to disease as well as higher yields.
- Stop the highly intensive factory farming methods that promote the spread of infections like Bovine TB.
- Graze farm animals more naturally giving them more chance to avoid eating near high risk areas.
- Identify and fence of wildlife areas from the areas that farmed animals use.
- Protect all animal feeds from wild animals as the disease can live for days on materials like hay and silage.
- Stop using markets to buy and sell animals! It doesn’t make sense, with modern technology all animals should be auctioned on site and moved directly from farm to farm.
- Design mobile slaughterhouses that can go straight to the farm, this would reduce the stress on the animals caused by transportation and reduce the risk of spreading disease.
These are only some ideas, there are people out there who I am sure have and will come up with more options so that farming and wildlife can coexist. The problem is that in the short term these practices are expensive for farmers and why should they have to face all the costs?
Farmers are only serving the consumer and it is the consumer who dictates the price and quality of food, with a lot of influence from the big retailers!
That’s why it is the consumer that has to push for change. We have got so used to being able to have meat every day and not paying much for it. For farmers to be able to provide an environment for their animals as described above they need to be able to charge more for their product. If we ate half the meat at twice the price, everybody including the wildlife could be happy!
So please use your voice and more importantly your pocket, if you don’t want to stop eating meat then think about reducing the amount of meat you eat which will be good for your health, for your wallet and for wildlife.
I look forward to hearing your views on this post