Friday, 8 June 2018

Is our Green & Pleasant Land Falling Silent?

Most days I try to spend a few hours in the local countryside, wherever I may be located at the time, exploring and absorbing the riches of the natural world. All life fascinates me, the individual species and the interconnected relationship that build a web of intricacy we are only just starting to understand.

These experiences I've cherished for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my parents spent time with my younger sister and I pointing out the plants and animals and teaching us to respect all life. Later on when I discovered the sciences and great teachers on TV like Carl Sagon, Sir David Attenborough and Sir Patrick Moore. I was inspired, filled with wonder and ambition to understand and see with my own eyes as much as possible while experiencing this brief moment, conscious and alive on this little speck of a green and blue planet. 

Those early and profound influences have never left me. I wouldn't change my passion and connection to the natural world for all the worldly riches and toys that most desire. When I'm immersed in nature, whether in the jungles of Borneo or in a meadow in my native Worcestershire, my heart is full and I stride like the richest man on the planet, truly alive and connected. I wish all could experience the same emotions.

Which brings me around to the very point of this blog post.
I'm the bearer of bad news I'm afraid. Some will be surprised by my conclusions but I'm sure most of you won't be. The voices of alarm have been loud and clear for those paying attention.

For many years I've been talking about, some would say ranting about the disappearing bio-diversity and the falling population numbers of our native UK wildlife. This is well studied by the scientific community and they are all in agreement. 

Of course, some species are doing better than others. For instance, the Common Buzzard and Red Kite have made a remarkable comeback across the country. As a boy, if I'd have seen either bird I'd have lost sleep through excitement for weeks. A change in some farming practices and focused conservation can take full credit for these success stories. 


Red Kite - A UK conservation success story

But where there are winners you have to have losers and they vastly outnumber the victors. The once common species that I grew up with like the beautiful Yellowhammer that filled the countryside with its plaintive call is all but now gone. The flocks of acrobatic Lapwing that occupied our farmlands are conspicuous by their absence. Ratty the Water Vole that used to inhabit every stream and waterway has become a symbol of our loss. Declining Farmland Bird Species

The summer days of my youth where the hedgerows, woodlands and fields were alive with delicate but fiercely territorial butterflies shimmering in sunlight while bouncing off each other defending the best pieces of habitat are fast becoming faded memories. Even our wildlife-friendly garden that has been planted and designed deliberately to attract as many species as possible now, in contrast to long past years, is an empty refuge for the few remaining visitors.

Here's a list of the butterfly species that should be a common sight at the time of the year. How many have you seen? UK Butterfly species on the wing in June



Hedge Brown butterfly

The species I mentioned above, when now encountered, become part of my 'memorable day species' list. 

How and why has this happened?

The answers to the above questions are many and complex. But some are obvious if we open our eyes.

Just this morning while walking just after dawn with a good friend and fellow naturalist in the rolling, lush countryside near my home. The countryside was all but silent. When the classically and rich English dawn chorus that you've been used to is missing, the silence rings in your ears. This is not new to me at all, unfortunately. This is a now common observation. 

An insect desert where it should be an oasis 

The farmland adjacent to the mixed woodland bordered by a 5-metre strip of grassy verges should have been alive with basking insects, charging up their metabolisms with the warmth of the morning sun. We saw nothing at all, not a single beetle, moth or butterfly. Again this is becoming a common occurrence. Even recent visits to my local, rich flower meadows which were a favourite butterfly patch have yielded very few insects or birds where once there were many.

The use of herbicides and pesticides has become more and more widespread. The dead and yellow grasses line fields, parks and roadsides, eventually turning to dust and blowing away. These are vital habitats for our invertebrates which in turn feed our small birds and mammals, they now lie withered and devoid of life. 

I'm constantly seeing local councils sending out teams of 'sprayers' to decimate the roadsides and paths with the infamous Monsanto Roundup which is actually the brand name for the controversial chemical glyphosate. Everything that falls underneath its toxic rain is killed except for our food crops. 
Don't we use our sciences well? (note the sarcasm). 

The glyphosate residue found in processed bread alone is terrifying, lucky us eh? After finding out this hidden scandal we make our own poison free bread. Unbelievably I know people who actually spray the vegetables that they are growing and then serve them to their families, all in the name of healthy eating!!!! 
More to come on this subject at a later date.


Where do you think all these poisons go? It all seeps, washes into our water aquifers draining into our waterways and enters the food chain affecting all species and that includes us. We are literally soaking our lands in poisons and all for convenience and of course to maximise profits.

The farming community is under huge pressures to keep solvent while under attack from cheaper imports backed by monopolising trade deals. Sure the farmers are subsidised by our governments, but why are we importing grain, fruit and vegetables in the first place? We live in the garden that is our home. 

Trade deals are undercutting our farmers and are being supported with backhanders from Big Agra and all the lovely GMO biotech industries. We are having the very land we live on and our food security compromised for profits. This is having a massive influence on how our countryside is being managed. The poor farmers have little choice than to use poisons to wipe out insects that attack the valued crops. The margins are so slim and hang in the balance every harvest that the risk outways the negative effects, at least in the short term. This trend is happening all over the agricultural world.

Our wildlife shut out by agriculture

A blatant plug here. For more in-depth info on what is happening with our food chain I highly recommend the three book series by my colleague Mark Plummer, you can find his work here or you can contact me for a FREE review copy of any titles in our book catalogue.

Another upward trend I've observed is the increased persecution of our wildlife. It seems to be coming down directly from our governments. They offered the people after a long fought campaign a fox hunting ban but rarely, if ever, enforce it. Recently a £50.00 bounty has been put on the head of every badger in the country (see recent articles here and here). The list of cruel and senseless persecution seems to be growing, they even want to cull our Raven!!

In the last 24hrs while walking the same route described earlier we came across four dead Pheasants, the feet of two separate Roe Deer plus lots of fur in the long grass. We also even found a dead Kestral, a protected species blasted out of the sky and like the other pointless victims left to rot where they fell. Just senseless killing for killing sake is a human trait I will never understand. 

We saw more dead than alive animals during our walk and it just breaks my heart. The wholesale slaughter of the planet wild inhabitant seems to be running out of control. At this point in our history and if we make it into the future we will be defined by our bloodlusts and stupidity. But I have a feeling that mother nature will have her say long before we get to the distant future and hang our heads in shame. 

As my favourite comedian, the late Bill Hicks defined us, "we are a virus with shoes".


The above testimony is only scratching the surface of the biological crisis we are now facing. The seas are full of microplastic and industrial chemical runoff. Our forests around the world are being ripped out of the ground, slashed and burnt, leaving the once majestic treasure houses resembling a post-nuclear wasteland. What for? For plantations producing mainly genetically modified monocultures that go mostly to feed livestock to supply our fast food outlets and western junk food lifestyles.
Ban Palm Oil PETITION UK

Remember this?

All short term and not sustainable while we tick off species after species that disappear into the infinite night of oblivion.

I firmly believe we have reached or are very close to a tipping point of bio-diversity collapse. Can we turn it around? Maybe, but we collectively need to act now. No more corrupt agenda driven arguments, meetings, roundtables and conferences and most of all denial and ignorance. We need action now and the corporations that have natures blood on their hands need to be held accountable. 

But it doesn't stop there. We can make a difference and force the hand of change. 
If you want to make a difference please educate yourselves as to where your money goes. If you're buying products that contain palm oil, GMOs etc find better, cleaner products, they are out there and becoming more available. 

On a Saturday afternoon if you've been taking the easy option of using Roundup instead of working up a sweat to remove the weeds on the drive, ditch the poisons and get a little sweaty. Boycott these evil corporations that lie, deceive and poison us all. Take the money out of the system and the criminal companies will have to adapt and give us ethical and safe products or they will fail. The all-important stockholders will not let that happen I can assure you but we have to apply constant financial pressure for them to change. The same applies to your vote at elections.  Ask the people who put themselves forward as our voice and representatives to be accountable. Check the voting records and demand disclosure of financial records before you place your votes. 
Demand it, it's your human right.


These simple methods, flexing of our intellectual and personal sovereignty have true power, we've just seemed to have been distracted and forgotten that these people work for us. 

Changes in our spending behaviour will help your personal health and the long-term health of your local environment, it's all in our hands and the choices we make. We all need to lead by example and don't settle for other faceless people deciding on our future. Start in your local area by collecting litter when you walk the dog or take the kids to the park. Nobody likes to see litter but how many actually take responsibility and clean it up? Don't wait for others to do this vital and dirty work. 

Here's a great example of someone I know making a difference to our local area, day in day out she's out cleaning up OUR planet, unpaid and voluntarily because she wants change. We all owe people like this a huge debt. Be inspired and lead by example, put a carrier bag in your pocket and piece by piece we can start to clean up this mess of our own making. I never leave home without a litter bag.

Ignorance is no longer a valid excuse, we all have access to the internet or know someone who does. We can't stick our heads in the sand any longer and pretend this isn't happening on our watch. If we don't start to collectively act it will be at our own peril. We can make a difference and learn from our collective stupidity. It's all our fault we've found ourselves here. It's time to admit we're wrong, it's a good thing as it leads to undeniable truth.

For a lesson from history check our Rachel Carson famous book Silent Spring. First published in 1962 alerting the American public about the effects of pesticides and especially the now-banned DDT. Don't let history repeat itself.

Thank you for reading my impassioned rant
John Hodges (a concerned naturalist)

#WeWantWildlife #SaveOurSpecies #DemandCleanFood #BiodiversityFirst #ActNow #BeAWomble

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Monday, 4 June 2018

#StopTheCull - Culling Badgers Will Not Stop Bovine TB


Badger - A Government Patsy?
by Mark Plummer BSc / PGCE


Once again the powers that be in this country are demonstrating both their contempt for the natural world and for objective science. I am of course referring to the 2018 badger cull. Apparently, in 2016, 10,000 of the animals were killed and in 2017 the number rose to 19,000+. This year (2018) if the current government gets its way the number can only rise. The stated official reason for the cull is to prevent or control the spread of Bovine TB in intensively reared cattle.

For the record, this writer has no issue with the principle of killing an animal for food, certainly if there is no alternative. Our household is also doing its best in the vegetarian, non-processed, GM free, organic, permaculture and locally sourced food department. I mean to say we all know what goes on in modern agriculture and animal husbandry and I think you have to have a total lack of empathy or understanding to think all of that is OK. From the pure flat out cruelty to long-term impacts such as climate change or the future of agriculture, intensive agriculture is wrong on all levels. That being said I’m no saint or purist and will on occasion have a burger from the van when it’s late at night at a festival and I’m no stranger to the barb-q either! But on a day-to-day basis meat and fish are gone and we are working on the dairy products!

Anyway, here in the UK we have an eminently capable, intelligent and committed environmentalist called Caroline Lucas, (I’m not in the green party either) her voting record is presented here. As of early 2018, the UK environmental secretary is a thoroughly loathsome and skin-crawlingly obnoxious parasite, called Michael Gove. His voting record is presented here. By any sensible benchmark if things were run properly, that is by putting people, planet and community first we would have someone like Caroline Lucas in Michael Gove’s position. 

Sadly, we do not. The point is that Caroline Lucas has an understanding of the subject matter in hand, Michael Gove does not and more importantly, he doesn’t care. The man had no experience, qualifications or pedigree as legal and education secretary (his two previous posts) and in broad objective strokes was despised by both professions. The same is true, but with much more intensity, for those of us that call ourselves “environmentalists”.  

The notion of Michael Gove being the Environment secretary is as dysfunctional as Boris Johnson being the UK current foreign secretary. The presence of Michael Gove is the basic reason as to why the badger cull is not only continuing but looks set to be expanded. The UK labour party secretary as of May 2018 is a woman called Sue Hayman and her voting record is shown here

Even with Jeremy Corbyn at its head, the Labour party is no champion for the environment either, not while it refuses to confront nuclear issues, fracking and the support thereof in its own ranks and in the trade union movement. Plus, in the very near future, the Labour party could well endorse GMO’s on a “case by case basis” or “if the people of the UK want them”. So I hold no real hope that a future labour government (assuming it happens) will do very much about issues such as the badger cull.


Any species of animal, juxtaposed to the word cull is going to invite controversy and the Badger cull is no different. Like fox hunting, hare coursing, the raven cull or the rapture cull most people and their children simply object on the cruelty stakes and I have no objection to that frame of opposition either. I would add that if your serious on these matters then you should probably start thinking about and acting on the wider issues connected to these kinds of issues. Namely, where our food comes from, how it is processed and what is done to it as a matter of course.  

From the industries perspective, bovine TB results in tens of thousands of animals being slaughtered every year, a carnage which costs “meat and dairy” about £100m every year. Badgers with absolutely no credible evidence are the fall guys as they are seen as the vector (carrying) organism for bovine TB. The truth is, they are not and as such, there is absolutely no justification on any grounds whatsoever for the badger cull any more than there is justification for any cull of any animal anywhere. And yes that goes for the grey squirrel too. 

There is apparently an effective vaccine for the form of TB that badgers carry, yet a shortage of funds (read cuts) has ceased the nationwide vaccination programme. I will be willing to bet everything that culling badgers are a cheaper option than implementing a nationwide vaccination programme. I also wager it’s cheaper than compelling the meat and dairy industry to improve its practices. I fail to see the intensive animal husbandry which characterises industrial-scale farming is NOT (amongst other issues) a breeding ground for disease.

Bottom line, the cull not work, is a fop to the landowners, the NFU and the meat and dairy industry and it won’t stop the spread of Bovine TB. It flies straight in the face of objective and peer-reviewed science (nothing new there). It will cost the UK taxpayer millions of pounds. It will do nothing to compel the meat and dairy industry to change the way it operates. As things stand in a post-Brexit Britain the exact opposite is more likely. It will satisfy the bloodlust, sadism and cruelty of those employed to carry out the shooting. Finally and most important, it will continue to have a hugely detrimental impact on the ecology and future food security of this country.

Mark Plummer BSc / PGCE

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Thursday, 31 May 2018

'The Great Awakening'

A Journey to Dietary Enlightenment
by Mark Plummer BSc / PGCE


Before late 2015 I had no real idea how nefarious the global processed food industry really is. Sure, I knew a bit about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), a spectre I’ve been following since the mid-1990’s. Even so, I had no idea as to how the modern food business operates, not so 3 years later. 

Having spent some time researching its machinations and objectives it is not hard to see why food manufacture in the modern age is so steeped in secrecy, double-speak and dis-information. It is also not hard to see why they want to keep it that way too. One thread of how this three book series came together takes me back to my late teens and early twenties. 

Through my university days, I learned about organochlorine or halogenated hydrocarbon compounds. Perhaps the most infamous of these is the compound di-chloro di-phenyl tri-chloro-ethane (DDT) and a family of chemicals called poly-chlorinated bi-phenols (PCB’s). I learned about how they were used as pesticides and in industry respectively. I learned about their temporary success in pest control, but I also learned about their devastating long-term environmental impact. I learned of how insects evolved resistance to the poisons they were coming into contact with. I learned of how insect resistance is what drove the manufacture of ever more organochlorine pesticides. 

To date, many hundreds of these compounds are cycling their way through the planet and its biosphere. These substances may well be chemically unique compounds, but they all have the same broad devastatingly irreversible environmental impacts, irreversibility being one fundamental reason to oppose GMO’s. If the chemical companies really cared about “the environment” such substances would not have been manufactured in anything like the quantity or varieties they have been. The same goes, but for different reasons for glyphosate (trade name Round-Up) and neonicotinoid (the bee-killing) pesticides.

DDT sprayed liberally in the 1950’s and 1960’s

Later in the mid-1990’s I read of GM soya being grown across the pond in the US and Brazil. I also saw how the industry was making inroads into the Far East, particularly in China. At home, here in the UK, I saw the flavr-savr tomato come onto the supermarket shelves and then within months I saw it come off them again! This was 1995-6 when the nascent new labour opposition headed by Tony Blair was successfully duping the country and its people (me included) into thinking it was some sort of alternative to the hated conservative party, headed by the equally loathsome John Major.

Anyway, Good old “bomber” Blair gets elected in 1997 and things were supposed “to get better” were they not? Clearly, they didn’t! For me the rot set in over the academy programme, university tuition fees and the continuation of privatisation along with a general realisation that New Labour was, in essence, the same as the conservatives.  Simultaneously, I was not happy about British involvement in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Kosovo. At the time I was not in the least bit informed about any of this. I was far too busy enjoying myself! I knew there was more to what “I was being told” and I never lost sight of the environmental knowledge I gained at university. Yet, I was losing “the argument” on these and other matters because I just didn’t know the nuts and bolts of what I was talking about. 

A set of circumstances I am pleased to say no longer exist, at least in the areas where I profess to “know my damned onions”.  Yet, it still took Afghanistan and Iraq to really catalyse my thinking and catapult forwards to where I now politically, philosophically and ideologically reside.  

I learned that Monsanto was involved in the production of compounds such as DDT and the other chemicals mentioned above. I learned of equivalent involvement in the production of Agent Orange and later how the British army also used in Malaya. I saw the clear ideological links between what was, and still is, going on in the Middle East and Central Asia and equally criminal imperial ventures such as South East Asia and Chechnya. On the back of Iraq and Afghanistan, I learned of the sordid history of Western and other forms of Imperialism.  Plus, the totality of lies, deceit, hypocrisy and destruction that goes with it all.  I was and still am appalled over the hypocrisy around Colonel Gadhafi’s Libya. For a time that particular dictator got his oil swap Lockerbie points. He also caused through arms sales from the UK (and other countries) untold suffering to people all over Western Africa. The list of crimes wrapped up in all of this and more is as endless as it is well documented, all the reader has to do is look.

From the Horse’s mouth in 2001 – Nothing has changed since then!

The key point of this article is the realisation that the same companies and institutions that were pushing for war in the Middle East, were the same companies who made the types of chemicals mentioned above.  They were also involved (and still are) in the drive to implement GMO’s in agriculture all over the world.  A point outlined with Specific reference to Iraq in chapter 6 of the Introducing GMO's book. 

For instance, here in the UK a company called Rothamsted Research is well embedded with various forms of GM crop, but also has a direct historical connection to developing poisons such as Agent Orange as weapons of war. And it was for reasons such as this that the fundraising job mentioned in chapter eight of the GMO book comes to its forte. 

In 2003 ONE reason for opposing GMO’s in agriculture was realising that a company such as Monsanto, with its sordid history, really ought to have no business in telling the world what is good to eat and what is not. In 2018 nothing has changed! Exactly the same goes for ALL other transnational corporations involved in GMO’s. The "Introducing GMO's" book gives countless additional examples and provides links to plenty more.

The second book in the series concerns the mass production of bread here in the UK. It grew out of an original idea to look at additives and food processing in general. I soon realised that developing an “additives database” was a reinventing the wheel exercise. So I decided to focus on a staple of the British diet, the humble loaf of bread. What I found out in the course of putting that book together should put any rational human being off ever eating mass produced bread of any kind again. 

Bread by definition is made by mixing flour, yeast and water together in the right proportions and then following the instructions for kneading, rising and finally baking into the final loaf. Bread produced through the Chorleywood process is not made in this way. All the reader has to do is look at the ingredients in any supermarket loaf. The how what and why of those ingredients form the bedrock of “The BIG Secret - What Happened To Our Bread?" book. 

On the back of that writing, we have invested in a bread maker. We use a simple Panasonic SD2500 machine, with a recipe book, which right now is baking a 5 seeded granary loaf. It is made from flour, water, butter, yeast, sugar, the seeds and that is all. 

Solely, from a bread perspective, if there is one thing the reader can do right now it would be to invest in a bread maker. For sure there is an initial outlay, which is going to be an issue if you’re on a budget. And finance is another point raised throughout the trilogy, it’s no good banging on about how terrible GMO’s and processed food is and then praising the virtues of whole or organic food if we have millions of people in the population who are barely getting by.  However, our machine cost £100 and we spend on average about £15 per month on ingredients. The health, taste and nutritional benefits more than outweigh those costs. In any case, if you use your machine regularly and follow the recipes it will have paid for itself in about 2-3 months. 

Another point is raised here and is made repeatedly throughout the writing. The ONLY reason people do not buy more fresh wholesome and the locally produced food is down to cost. In turn, the only reason proper food is so much more expensive is structural, i.e. mass produced food is cheaper than non-processed food. 

The trilogy of writing uses examples from the real world to demonstrate this and chapter four in the “food additives” book uses examples from the life of yours truly.  As with plastics and the processed food outlined in the third book, the only real answer is to overhaul how food and agriculture are organised all over the world. In many cases as with single-use plastic packaging and other items, the only REAL answer is to STOP making or producing it, a point raised in chapter 3 of the “Food Additives - The Truth” book.  

This third volume also considers sweeteners in general and aspartame in particular. The same nefarious links mentioned above as regards GMO’s also apply to the most studied and arguably most controversial sweetener on the planet. As for sweeteners themselves, read the book, in fact, you can read that chapter first if you like, when you’re done if you keep ingesting sweeteners there really is nothing else I (or anyone else) can do.

Bread from the bread machine

Prior to 2015, I had no idea as to the depth of knowledge and research there is tied up under the word “nutrition”. I truly believed it was wishy-washy whimsical nonsense and certainly not as important as the global issues I constantly bang on about. Read the books to see what they are! I am pleased to inform the reader that I see how wrong I was. The domain of food and nutrition is just as hard in the science and politics department as the big self-inflicted problems we need to fix if we are to survive on this Earth.

Now in May 2018 I truly do understand what is meant by the term “you are what you eat”. Since 2015 we have made as many individual choices as we can. We have cut out as much processed food as we can and we have almost completely removed meat and fish from our diet. We have taken to using more pulses, beans, nuts and grains in our cooking. We cook from scratch as much as possible too and that is another action the reader can take. Get a cookbook, the best IMO, are the traditional farmhouse type. They have better recipes, better instructions and are more fun to use in the long run. 

The only fly in the ointment here is single-use plastic. We pretty much get everything we buy in glass or metal containers. Another way to significantly reduce your plastic footprint is to stop eating meat and fish. Even so, our much re-used black bin bag becomes filled with various wrappers of grains, pulses, seeds, and other single-use packaging materials. Such is one consequence of living in a food desert!

About a month of single-use plastic in the bin bag!

So here we are then, this is the broad strokes as to where the box set comes from. My hope is that the reader will see the processed food industry and the drivers behind GMO’s for what they truly are. As a construct, it has no interest in promoting healthy eating, sustainable agriculture or nutrition. All it cares about is making cash at all costs, to the detriment of you and yours, everyone else and the planet itself. My hope is the reader will become empowered by knowledge and begin to explore and act upon the issues raised further.


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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Badger Cull: A State Sponsored Sadistic Genocide EXPOSED #StopTheCull




The argument for the pro-badger cull lobby is simply ridiculous and falls apart under any kind of scientific scrutiny. The real reason for the now expanded and bounty driven badger cull in 2018 is, in my opinion, to gain votes and party campaign contributions from the farming community and the landed wealthy elite and hunt/bloodsport lobby. 



A simplistic view, maybe, conspiratorial yes, if that means I’ve genuinely researched the studies and evidence into this case then I stand accused. When this kind of insane controversy raises its ugly head, my first instinct is to follow the money and influence. I learnt a long time ago the politicians never waste a drama or crisis to capitalise on.


Since the first recognised outbreak of Bovine tuberculosis was identified in the body of a dead badger found on a farm in Gloucestershire in 1971, the whole debate has staggered back and forth like a drunk on a Saturday night. 

Hundreds of millions of taxpayers money have been spent, some say squandered on trying to find a solution to the spread of Bovine TB.

The fundamentals are all wrong. I will give a simple example as to why culling is not only ineffective but also encourages the movement of badgers and the possibility of wider TB transmission that is if badgers are to blame.

As a naturalist for 40 years and a wildlife photographer for over a decade, I spend a very good portion of my time observing wildlife, especially the native species of the UK.

I’ve spent countless hours watching the habits and lifestyles of badgers. They are intelligent, social, family-based mammals. Not once have I witnessed any regular interaction with cattle, in fact quite the opposite. The badgers I’ve seen on farmland tend to use the hedgerows and field borders when crossing fields inhabited with livestock. I have seen them around cattle sheds and farmyards and this is often used to point towards the source of TB infection. It is more likely that the cattle are actually infecting the much lower concentrations of badger than the other way around.

The majority of cattle, whether for beef or dairy, live in not ideal conditions, especially in the cold, wet winter, shoulder to shoulder being fed unnatural diet and pumped with 16 vaccines, growth hormones and antibiotics (all of this chemical brew goes into the meat on your plate). Is it really any surprise the industry lose so many cattle to disease and infection per year? One infected cow wipes out a herd. The industry move these animals around the country increasing the risk of exposure to other herds and yet the humble badger gets the blame; it’s insane.

The increase in mass, industrial level cattle farming is about to sweep across the industry using the American model. This is terrible for human, animal health and the environment but this I will have to address in another article.

The major problem with the ‘logic’ of the badger cull to decrease TB transmission is simply this: You have something called ‘the perturbation effect’; I’ll explain.


Badger group behaviour
When you have a stable population of badgers you have very little movement between sets (badger homes) and populations. Therefore if TB is present in a given family group the spread of outside infection is very low.

When you start culling the population, removing large numbers of animals from local areas you open up new territory for the displaced animals to move into (can you see where I’m going with this yet?).

Healthy badgers from outside designated infected areas move into the vacant territory and encounter infected sets and animals that have escaped the cull. Also, not all culled bodies can be collected which leaves another, unseen source of infection. Badger to badger infection multiplies and therefore the likelihood of cross-species infection goes up.

Because the new population of badgers in a culled area is lower than the carrying capacity of the land the Badgers move around much more freely and therefore can infect new areas previously free from the disease. This is as a direct consequence of the local area culling.

Studying a report based on the largest randomised badger culling trial carried out by the Independent Scientific Group set up to advise the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom (now Michael Gove’s office). The report clearly showed that local, small-scale culling and targeting of particular farms actually increased infection rates rather than reduce them.

Another trail over a wider area of up to 100km only achieved a very modest reduction in infections but however increased infection in adjoining lands and previously un-culled areas. The Badgers were obviously moving around looking to inhabit previously occupied territories spreading the infection to each other and possibly to the cattle herds.

This study and similar others are widely accepted by the scientific community but have been ignored by our government. Why? This is a very obvious and yet unanswered question.

In the last week (May 2018) Michael Gove has put a Government-financed bounty of £50 on the head of all badgers. The implications are horrendous. Most sets I’ve observed over the years can have a dozen or more animal living in them. That’s a potential reward of £600 per set!!! That’s a huge financial incentive to all of society who are struggling to find ends meat or would just like to finance a holiday, car etc... you can fill in the blanks. The government is encouraging the population to go out stalking our countryside with poisons and weapons for some easy weekend cash incentive. All based on a campaign of fear and propaganda, now weaponised with cash rewards.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attacking the farmers, they are the victims first and foremost. Although as a vegan I do have some issues with certain farming practices but that discussion is for another time. 

This state-sponsored genocide is not improving the farming community’s welfare, the evidence points completely to the opposite outcome. But the information the farmers are being presented with is biased and easily believed especially as the livelihoods of the affected cattle farmers are in the balance and many are forced out of business. This, in turn, frees up the land for ‘other development projects’. Also opening the doors to more industrial American style cattle farming which is on the increase and seems to have slipped under the radar. Hmmm...
Fear is a great motivator for irrational group behaviour.


£50 per badger carcass. 
Cull figures of 19,274 in 2017 alone, which will undoubtedly increase this year. 
Who pays? 
Exactly how does this work?
Will we have people turning up at town halls with sacks of badger heads looking for a cash handout? 
I shudder to think.

Surely this money would be better spent and probably more effective if a trapping and oral vaccination (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin - BCG) scheme was implemented across the country as has already been trailed for the last three years in Northern Ireland with so far positive results. The results have even been widely approved by farmers. Irish Badger Vaccination trail


Call me a crazy vegan, environmentalist, animal lover, conspiracy nut (t-shirt anyone?). But I’d prefer it if you call me a rationalist who makes conclusions without muddying the waters of scientific enquiry with fear, bloodlust and stupidity.

As a society built on democracy, we must remember that we elect politicians to serve the will of the people and we must make sure they hear us loud and clear when they enact policies and laws against the wishes and consent of the majority.

We must demand better representatives and open and unbiased discourse on such serious matters. If we shy away from these sometimes difficult issues and conversations then as people we invite the tyranny that history has always thrown up when ignored. The people must not acquiesce because the conversation is difficult. We must share our ideas freely without hindrance and fear of judgement.

This is not a left/right argument; this is based on lessons from science and history. The people and our natural heritage deserve much, much better from our elected officials.

We must not take ‘faith’ in what we are told to believe. A critical and enquiring mind is a gift of natural selection and human evolution that separates us from the animal kingdom. It helps us make better choices and leads us to the truth based on evidence. Use it or lose it and face the consequences.

We must never tolerate arguments from ignorance.
We must exercise this freedom while we still have it or we will lose it. 
We must also be the guardians of the biodiversity of this planet because we have the biggest influence and demands. 
We must leave a stable and safe planet for future generations; it is our individual moral obligation.

Final Conclusions
Solely based on the rigorous scientific findings and analysis, it is obvious that the tragedy of Bovine TB cannot be solved by the eradication of badgers across the country. This is not a viable long-term solution to this 'hot' debate. More studies are required undoubtedly, we can never have too much data. We have to re-think some of our long-term practices in meat production and farming. More funding for implementing an effective vaccination programme, safeguarding not only badgers, farmers but also the delicate balance of our country's biodiversity. 

Are we really still at the point of a 'kill everything' attitude when we encounter an environmental problem? 
Have we not caused enough damage? 
Have we not learnt anything from history? 
I sincerely hope we have!

John Hodges



 
Reference list
Godfray et al. (2013) A restatement of the natural science evidence base relevant to the control of bovine tuberculosis in Great BritainProc R Soc B 280: 20131634. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.1634

Donnelly and Nouvellet (2013) The Contribution of Badgers to Confirmed Tuberculosis in Cattle in High-Incidence Areas in EnglandPLoS Currents: Outbreaks, available here: http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/the-contribution-of-badger-to-cattle-tb-incidence-in-high-cattle-incidence-areas/

Report of the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle in 2014 - 2015 in the areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire exposed to two years of industry-led badger control, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/574290/tb-badger-control-second-year-analysis.pdf

Summary of badger control monitoring during 2016 - Updating of minimum and maximum numbers during the cull http://www.bovinetb.info/docs/summary-of-badger-control-monitoring-during-2016-updating-of-minimum-and-maximum-numbers-during-the-cull-annex-a2.pdf

Defra (2011) Bovine TB and Badger Control: Consultation on Guidance to Natural England on the implementation and enforcement of a badger control policy – July 2011. 
Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C.A., Jenkins, H.E., Johnston, W.T., Cox, D.R., Bourne, F.J., Cheeseman, C.L., Delahay, R.J., Clifton-Hadley, R.S., Gettinby, G., Gilks, P., Hewinson, R.G., McInerney, J.P. & Morrison, W.I. (2006) Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103: 14713-14717.
Donnelly CA, Nouvellet P. (2013). The Contribution of Badgers to Confirmed Tuberculosis in Cattle in High-Incidence Areas in EnglandPLOS Currents Outbreaks, Edition http://currents.plos.org/outbreaks/article/the-contribution-of-badger-to-cattle-tb-incidence-in-high-cattle-incidence-areas/
Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C.A., Jenkins, H.E., Johnston, W.T., Cox, D.R., Bourne, F.J., Cheeseman, C.L., Delahay, R.J., Clifton-Hadley, R.S., Gettinby, G., Gilks, P., Hewinson, R.G., McInerney, J.P. & Morrison, W.I. (2006) Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103: 14713-14717.
Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C.A., Wei, G., Cox, D.R., Bourne, F.J., Burke, T., Butlin, R.K., Cheeseman, C.L., Gettinby, G., Gilks, P., Hedges, S., Jenkins, H.E., Johnston, W.T., McInerney, J.P., Morrison, W.I. & Pope, L.C. (2009) Social group size affects Mycobacterium bovis infection in European badgers (Meles eles). Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 818-827.
Trewby, I.D., Wilson, G.J., Delahay, R.J., Walker, N., Young, R., Davison, J., Cheeseman, C., Robertson, P.A., Gorman, M.L. & McDonald, R.A. (2008) Experimental evidence of competitive release in sympatric carnivores. Biology Letters 4: 170-172.
British Veterinary Association (2015) BVA calls for change to badger culling method and wider roll-out in England, available here: https://www.bva.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Content/News,_campaigns_and_policies/Policies/Farm_animals/Final%20position%20on%20bTB%20and%20badger%20culling%20AGREED%20at%20Council%2015%20April%202015.pdf
These figures were provided in response to a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request, which is available in full on the Gov.uk website
Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C.A., Ham, C., Jackson, S.Y.B., Moyes, K., Chapman, K., Stratton, N.G. & Cartwright, S.J. (2016) Ranging behaviour of badgers Meles meles L. vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette Guerin. Journal of Applied Ecology http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1527401/
Carter et al. (2012) BCG Vaccination Reduces Risk of Tuberculosis Infection in Vaccinated Badgers and Unvaccinated Badger Cubs. PLOS One, 7: e49833
Gormley et al. (2017) Oral Vaccination of Free-Living Badgers (Meles meles) with Bacille Calmette GueÂrin (BCG) Vaccine Confer Protection against Tuberculosis. PLoS ONE, 12: 1-16
Brennan and Christley (2012) Biosecurity on Cattle Farms: A Study in North-West EnglandPLoS ONE, 7: e28139.