Star comment: Owen Paterson putting badger cull words into action
Shropshire's man at the Cabinet table, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, has talked up the possibility that the controversial badger culling scheme could come to parts of this county next year.
Mr Paterson has nailed his colours to the mast firmly on this issue. He is with the farmers.
With pilot culls due in Somerset and Gloucestershire soon, he says that North Shropshire is an appropriate place for an extension of the culling programme. And as he is at the centre of power, his words have a lot of weight.
Bovine TB is an agent of misery for farmers, cattle and badgers themselves. A case study is the experience of Mervin Mullard, who has run a farm near Bishop's Castle for 25 years. In the last five years he has lost 133 out of 200 cows to bovine TB.
- Badger cull is to reach Shropshire in 2014
He has had enough and is soon to call it a day. He likes badgers, but blames them for infecting his cattle.
Outside the farming and wider agricultural community, there is a combination of ignorance and lack of interest. But talk about culling badgers, and people prick their ears up.
They are the lovely creatures of children's books. There is strong sentiment in their favour.
When it comes to bovine TB, Mr Paterson says: "Everybody knows that the problem is, that's the stupid thing about it... It is idiotic if we do not attack the disease in the badgers as well as in the cattle. It is in the interests of badgers that we remove this horrible disease."
There are arguments about whether a cull is really an effective way of tackling the problem. The pilot culls will, it has to be hoped, provide some answers.
For Shropshire's farmers, there is at least some cause for quiet satisfaction and reassurance.
They now have a man in the hot seat who is their champion, has a clear and straightforward view, and is prepared to back up his fine words with practical actions.
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