Plastic environmentalism

The Conference speech by the new Defra Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, will have been like discordant music to the ears of the environment movement.

It would be very difficult to find many working in the environment who think that the EU is perfect but it would be almost impossible to find people who think that we should leave the EU.  So much of our best environmental protection comes from the EU – admittedly, the EU of the past rather than recent developments, but the EU all the same.

And Mr Paterson is an enthusiastic badger-killer.  The main threat to our dairy industry comes from badgers apparently – I thought it came from supermarkets and milk processors.  Aah, but then they can vote and argue back whereas badgers need people to speak up for them.

The future of the environment depends, it seems on economic development – an Environment Secretary who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, perhaps?  And for economic development we need to remove regulation. This is just dogma.  It is plastic environmentalism.

I’m not sure how the RSPB will feel about being the only NGO mentioned by the new SoS – he talked about the great Wallasea project about which I blogged earlier.

Any Defra focus on nature went out the door in Caroline Spelman’s handbag (there would also have been a tiny bit leaving in Jim Paice’s canvas shooting bag).

You could get the impression that the Environment Secretary thinks that the environment is either a disease riddled problem area or else a get-rich-quick money-earner.  Those environmentalists who do exist in the Conservative Party – and there are some very good ones – will have felt toe-curling embarrassment at that speech.

Owen Paterson has great potential – great potential to be the worst Environment Secretary we have seen for decades embarking on an anti-EU, pro-development agenda with a bit of climate-denial and wildlife-killing thrown in.

Here is the full text taken from the Conservative Party Conference website;

As we’ve heard, we are making real progress in reversing the thirteen years of shameful neglect our countryside suffered at the hands of the Labour government.

My predecessor, Caroline Spelman, should be given particular credit for her role in overseeing this. But while significant progress has been made, much remains to be done.

As someone… who has lived in the countryside all my life; who comes from a rural business background; and who has represented North Shropshire for 15 years it is a tremendous privilege to have been asked to take this on.

And I am pleased to have the help of David Heath, Richard Benyon and Rupert de Mauley. My instructions from the Prime Minister were to boost growth in the rural economy whilst continuing to improve our environment.

One of my first events was a meeting at No 10 with farmers, producers, distributors and exporters.

The wider food supply chain supports 3.7 million jobs and contributes nearly £90 billion a year to the UK economy.

While we are already helping secure 6,000 apprenticeships in the food and drink manufacturing sector alone, we must continue to work with the whole industry.

To get the right people into the right jobs

To give them the necessary skills

To capitalise on the opportunities offered by the growing global demand for high-quality British products.

As we help our farmers and growers seize these opportunities, we must also help them overcome the difficulties.

We must continue to cut regulation and get out of people’s hair.

We must radically reform Europe’s outdated and monolithic agricultural policy – one size does not fit all.

We must radically reform Europe’s fisheries policy, which is a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster.

We need to bring these decisions closer to home.

This summer the plight of our dairy farmers has been all too apparent.

Jim Paice deserves our heartfelt praise for his work in bringing farmers and processers together to agree a Code of Practice, which will rebalance their relationship and give greater certainty to our milk producers.

We can also do our bit. Each year we import…115,000 tonnes of ice cream – more than double the 50,000 we send abroad. 150,000 tonnes of yoghurt – six times the 25,000 we export.

Just as we got behind Team GB this summer, we must get behind our farmers. By buying British, we can support our producers AND enjoy some of the best dairy products in the world.

The main threat, however, to our cattle industry comes from bovine TB.

Last year, TB led to the slaughter of 26,000 cattle at a cost of nearly £100 million.

A cost that will rise to £1 billion over the next decade if this disease is left unchecked.

Let’s be clear, bovine TB imposes a shattering financial and emotional cost on our farmers, their families and communities.

This will only get worse if we continue the cowardly policy of inaction pursued by Labour in government.

Let me tell you, there is no easy solution.

While we continue to spend £15.5 million on research into vaccines:

– an injectable badger vaccine remains impracticable, with animals having to be trapped and injected annually;

– there is no workable, oral badger vaccine and there probably won’t be for several years

– an effective vaccine for cattle is some way off. In any event, the vaccination of our national herd is prohibited by EU legislation, which, even once we have a workable vaccine, will take years to modify.

We must, therefore, learn from the experience of other countries. We have to use every tool at our disposal. That’s why we’re trialling a badger cull.

We need healthy wildlife living alongside healthy cattle.

Only if we work to eradicate the reservoir of TB in our badgers, will we have the strong and prosperous dairy industry the public wishes to see.

We don’t just face animal diseases though.

We have to be constantly vigilant for disease in our plants and trees.

Many people are rightly concerned about the danger that ash dieback poses to the 80 million ash trees in the British countryside.

We have therefore launched a rapid consultation, which ends on 26 October, with a view to introducing an emergency import ban on potentially diseased ash trees.

Safeguarding our natural environment has to be of the utmost importance.

The Rural Statement that I launched in Cumbria is our commitment to “successful rural businesses and thriving rural communities in a living, working countryside”.

In these tough economic times, we must help the rural economy unlock its potential.

We must put in place the conditions that will enable the 500,000 businesses in rural England to grow and the many business ideas and start ups to take root.

Broadband and mobile phone coverage are key.

In Cumbria, at the end of a long stony track in an old barn at the top of a fell, I was amazed to see an architects’ business designing golfing villas in Nasiriyah in Iraq.

For the first time, we have a technology which can bridge the gap between urban and rural: transforming our rural economy.

That’s why we are investing £530 million in the roll out of high speed broadband to rural communities. That was the good news.

Mobile phone coverage in rural areas is dire.

The countryside must be the only place in the UK where our mobile phone conversations end with the word ‘Hello’?

How many times have you lost the signal during an important call? How can you hope to run a business without reliable reception?

I am absolutely determined to work with Maria Miller and Eric Pickles to overcome this. We can only unlock growth in the rural economy by harnessing advances in technology.

The next day in Nottingham, I opened a £45 million flood defence scheme.

The scheme will not only protect 16,000 properties but also free more than 500 acres of land from the blight of flooding, creating the conditions for private sector investment.

The events of the past fortnight have demonstrated all too clearly the vulnerability of many of our communities to flooding.

I would like to thank the Environment Agency for their work with local authorities in bringing forward mitigation measures.

And reaffirm our commitment to invest over £2 billion in flood and coastal defence management.

An investment which will safeguard people’s homes and livelihoods and see £8 saved for every £1 spent on flood defences.

Environment and economy Improving our environment for future generations is one of the great challenges we as a society face.

But we must not be afraid of major infrastructure projects which improve the economy.

At Wallasea Island in Essex, I saw how 4.5 million tonnes of soil from the excavations for Crossrail will be used to transform 1,500 acres of land into a valuable wetland habitat.

A habitat which will attract tens of thousands of migratory birds and up to 100,000 visitors a year.

The partnership between the RSPB and Crossrail shows how huge infrastructure projects can help to generate economic growth AS WELL as helping wildlife.

We can have a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

The two are not mutually exclusive. Imaginative thinking will see our economy, environment AND wildlife thrive.

As we look to the future, we must continue to explore new ways of investing in our biodiversity and environment and rewarding those who are already doing so.

Scientific and technological advances have a key role to play in enabling us to benefit from energy sources we never previously thought possible.

The concept of anaerobic digestion, for example, is tremendous. We have a huge volume of food waste in this country which we should use for power rather than sending to landfill.

We must, however, ensure that the RIGHT measures are deployed in the RIGHT places to deliver the RIGHT results.

It’s horses for courses. In my part of the world, local residents – 300 of whom turned up at a public meeting last week – are concerned about the impact of proposed wind farm pylons on their communities.

Nearby, dairy farmers are being outbid for land by those who want to grow maize specifically for anaerobic digestion. These are the unintended consequences of renewable technology.

They risk upsetting the delicate balance of interests that underpins our living, working countryside.

My Department will work closely with DECC as it considers future support levels for low carbon energy.

This will ensure that the impact of these new technologies on the rural economy and the environment is fully taken into account.

The relationship between renewable energy sources and the communities we expect to host them must be appropriate and sustainable.

And, above all, acceptable to local people.

Only by creating a prosperous, healthy economy can we improve our environment.

You can’t have one without the other.

That’s why we are determined to:

– put in place the infrastructure

– reduce the regulation

– allow everyone to get on with the job

Investing in our economy.

Investing in our environment.

Unlocking rural Britain’s potential.

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43 Replies to “Plastic environmentalism”

  1. Surely his title should be 'Minister for rural business development' - greenwash laced with manure at its worst to be know as 'Environment Secretary'.

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    1. Cowboy - Minister for Rural Business Development would be a good title. And if that is what happens then we should argue for farming just to be popped into the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and a proper Environment Department formed.

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  2. Golfing villas in Iraq. You could hardly find a better way of demonstrating a lack of understanding of environmental issues if you tried. In an already water-stressed region, and with Turkey plundering the waters of the Euphrates for all its worth (there could be wars fought over water in the Middle East in years to come), the last thing Iraq needs is water-guzzling golf courses.

    On which subject, could I just put a word in for anyone who hasn't done so already (it's up on Fatbirder and Birdforum to name but two) to sign the Avaaz petition to preserve Lagoa dos Salgados in the Algarve, which is suffering from illegal water abstraction by the neighbouring golf course, as well as being in serious danger from concretization.

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  3. We heard from Richard Benyon and Helen Philips earlier this year when both congratulated gamekeepers for maintaining the biodiversity of our countryside. These ill-founded accolades took no account of the loss of hen harriers together with the disappearance of a majority of other protected birds of prey which are fast becoming rarer than hen’s teeth throughout England’s uplands these days.

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  4. Oh dear, I am fortunate enough to live in North Shropshire, and have had the misfortune of being in Mr Paterson's constituency, and of having met him as a teenager. From that one meeting I had an extremely low opinion of him, and I was seriously worried when I heard of his new position in goverment. Who will protect the environment with this idiot in charge? Must we put a monetary value on ecosystems? It seems we must be prepared to do so, and fast!

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  5. Oh Dear it seems like we have another Nicholas Ridley. I do hope the major NGO's get their act togther and expose every bit of nonsense that Paterson does or utters. I had heard from one of his constituents that he was a Badger hater. That makes him well qualified to decide on their future in this administration.

    Sadly with all the other things happening just now which affect people more immediately and deeply our screams of indignation may not be heard.

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    1. Seems they are related by marraige. Interesting profile in the Guardian of OP. apparently we have a negative balance of trade with our puddings and he wants us all to buy British puds

      http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gnm/op/so6Csi5bUD4Suj41C1_S3Xg/view.m?id=15&gid=politics/2012/oct/11/owen-paterson-environment-guardian-profile&cat=most-read

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  6. They are spending £100 million in compensation annually but only £15.5 million in trying to find a vaccine to save the compensation payments? Hmmm. I live in a town (well the edge actually) and my mobile phone signal has cut out mid-conversation for no reason, four times in the last 10 days. It's a myth that it is only so called rural areas have problems with signals and broadband. Well Mark, let's hope our new MP whoever it will be, has something sensible to say about the environment.

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  7. Scary stuff, a complete lack of understanding sustainable development, (sustainable development I presume is now completely dead in England), and a warped determination to continue a path that has been proven to fail. Can someone please explain, amongst much else, to this new minister for 'agriculture' that England is a very small country with a population that cannot be dependent on home grown produce. As big money starts to flow rapidly into sustainable land management elsewhere in the world - England will lose out because of the lobbyist culture it has adopted, a culture which allows the principle consultee for pesticide usage in the UK for the hort and amenity sector (the Amenity Forum) to be sponsored by bayer, without a murmur of disapproval from any NGO!

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  8. Well if it did rise to £1Billion in ten years that seems like quite a big threat but I thought it was only set to double. However doubling every ten years is still a pretty huge problem.

    On the issue of wildlife crime are you aware that we are apparently going to have hundreds of saboteurs flooding our fields and woodlands armed with vuvuzelas? The intention being to scare badgers into their setts.

    I've questioned the Natural England Wildlife licensing unit about this and they would definitely be breaking the Badger Act f they do this. If they don't get a license and disturb badgers in setts even unintentionally they are committing wildlife crime.

    I hope law abiding conservationists will be quick to condemn this criminal behaviour. Unfortunately I very much doubt the investigation teams of the RSPCA and LACS will lift a finger to stop this potential wide scale organised violation of the Badger Act for obvious political reasons. That's why the law should be enforced by an impartial police force.

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  9. "Plastic environmentalism?" i feel that this description is inaccurate, as it implies Owen Patterson is looking to greenwash his policies, which so far is not the case. Owen Patterson it seems is the most unashamedly anti-environment Defra Minister that I can recall. Biodiversity it seems is regarded purely an incidental by-product of the economy.

    This is deepling troubling, however as unpallatable as I find his ideology, I do have a grudging respect for the fact that he makes no attempt to insult the intelligence of environmentalists with glib greenwash and at least the environmental sector knows exactly where it stands and what it needs to do.

    That he is so overtly anti-environment is unlikely to have occurred to David Cameron and Gideon Osbourne, the likelyhood is that he was hand-picked for this position before the last election, purely on the basis of his fervently anti-CAP views. The Head Girl was deployed as a nightwatchman in order to deal with some tricky issues such as the Forest sell-off and the first rounds of spending cuts.
    Where better than Northern Ireland dealing with Messrs Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley to prepare for tough rounds of CAP negotiation and the meetings with the NFU ?

    The good news is that Owen Patterson will probably not be at Defra for long, 2015 at the latest. Once he has secured the treasury a huge EU rebate after wielding the axe to the CAP spending, he will be rewarded with a more prestigious office.

    "The main threat, however, to our cattle industry comes from bovine TB", this line must have been the source of much mirth between the Minister and his advisers.

    Some farmers can see straight through him. The following comment was posted by a farmer on the Farmer's Guardian website following his appointment:

    "hey I hate badgers too"
    "then I'm going to shaft you"

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    1. "Biodiversity it seems is regarded purely an incidental by-product of the economy. " - well in many ways it is. Even the RSPB & NT are commercial organisations driven by commercial forces and our countryside is very largely shaped by economic forces. The pattern of woodland, fields, hedges and walls is there because of hardnosed businessmen doing stuff for cash.

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      1. Giles,

        It is undeniably true that the British landscape has been shaped by economics, principally farming. However it is also true that in recent times biodiversity has struggled to adapt to modern land use practices and over the last three or four decades it has become evident that the market is unreliable when it comes to conserving biodiversity.

        Generally speaking the market will always favour winter sown cereal crops, multi-cut silage instead of late cut hay, intensive paddock grazing and New Zealand extended grazing systems instead of extensive low input grazing.
        These are commercial realities, we have mouths to feed and the farmers have bills to pay and livings to make. In order to try and redress the impact upon biodiversity some form of public intervention is required, Environmental Stewardship being a good example. Will pure market forces ever make it profitable for farmers to grow wild bird seed / nectar flower plots, drill low input spring cereals or restore species rich grasslands and heathlands ? Perhaps on a local scale as part of a marketing strategy for some niche added-value products, but overall I think not.
        How many 'hard nosed businessmen' these days lay hedges or coppice woodlands without public support ? Very few in my part of the world as rarely does it make economic sense.

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        1. Joe,

          I'm certainly not opposed to public intervention to protect bio diversity. I support Stewardship schemes - at least the higher level ones, I'm a bit dubious about entry level stewardship. However we also have to realise that as economic circumstances change so will the level of that intervention. Labour has done a very good job of leading the country into one of the worst financial crises in recent history and then ducking any responsibility for the long term consequences of economic mismanagement. And yes it was a 'global issue' but our government undoubtedly contributed to it. It's worth also remembering that they campaigned for cuts deeper than thatcher pre election and yet now seem to oppose every Tory cut (while saying they would not reverse any of them). One has to ask the question if they wouldn't have made any of the cuts the Tories have then what cuts would they have made? Maybe we should be making those too?

          As for private market forces helping to produce such results I can think of a few possible areas where they might help:

          a) tourism
          b) country sports
          c) charities
          d) volunteering

          You might quibble with my inclusion of volunteering but at the end of the day conservation volunteers can be seen as engaging in a very enjoyable working holiday. They give their labour in return for the pleasure and satisfaction of helping the environment.

          Trying to foster an alignment between economic interests and conservation is extremely important especially when state sponsorship is withdrawn as it will be from time to time for a variety of reasons.

          I'm not saying that that is what Owen Patterson is arguing for but he should.

          I want an economically prosperous and bio diverse countryside.

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  10. The concept of anaerobic digestion, for example, is tremendous. We have a huge volume of food waste in this country which we should use for power rather than sending to landfill.

    Surely he should be looking at ways to recduce this waste rather than finding an alternative use for it.

    Badgers are still being used as a scapegoat - they have an effective bTB vaccine in South Africa which I'd hazard a guess has more wildlife/cattle interactions than the UK...get the EU rule changed or (heaven forbid) get out of the EU and make your own vaccine rule...if vaccines are such a problem for the EU do the other member states not have bTB? Their badger ecology is a little different to ours but they have a whole host more wildlife deer, boar etc etc that carry the disease.

    Have no problem with rural business but developing golf courses in water stressed areas can't be sustainable...unless the chap is being very clever and designing water/excess fertiliser/pesticide load out of the development

    So what if dairy land is being used for biofuel production - isn't that called business competition something the Tories would have us believe is good? As long as it's not being grown on 'my' wildlife and cattle friendlier organic milk farms rather than the usual green concrete...oops a vested interest showed there.
    He did allude to anaerobic digstion being a good thing earlier in his speech - so which is it?

    Scary tmes for the evironment ahead I fear

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    1. Anaerobic digestion is a great way of deriving useful energy from waste and, with the proviso that the first priority should always be to reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place, offers a useful solution to the problem of managing wastes from the food industry, animal slurries and for sewage treatment. There is a huge demand for energy-dense fuels that we cannot just wish away and bio-fuels provide a low/no carbon means supplying this demand. Waste-derived AD is a means of providing bio-fuel without the environmental down-sides that make growing oil-plant crops (here or in the tropics) for conversion into diesel a non-sustainable option.

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      1. The sewage treatment industry already operates a large number of anaerobic digesters. Beyond that, anaerobic digestion (AD), especially large-scale centralised AD, has huge potential to recover energy from putrescible wastes arising from food. Reduction of food waste is a no-brainer - the first R of the three-Rs of the Reduce Re-use Recycle mantra. See http://www.wrap.org.uk/ or http://www.tristramstuart.co.uk/.

        But - there are issues. Road transport fuel to get the feedstocks to the digester, and to recover the residual solids and effluent back to land. The poor gas yield from livestock wastes versus the yield from crop feedstocks like maize silage, or oilseeds. More gas equals more power input to the National Grid which gets more subsidy income (paid for by the Bank of You & Me) which attracts non-food business to buy land and take it out of food production. Intensive maize monoculture landscape results with food production displaced abroad. Materials with high readily-available organic nitrogen may not be spread on land in the NVZ during the NVZ closed periods ie October-February, so digestate liquids must be stored. The practical option for these volumes is to construct earth storage lagoons - where the effluent sits quietly denitrifying and releasing N2O for several months, and collecting rainfall so that there is even more volume to transport and spread - return to beginning of paragraph.

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  11. Owen Patterson's speech is deeply depressing it would sit well as a mission statement on the Countryside Allaince website! He also appears to be in the Climate Change Deniers school. There is, however, conflict within the Conservatives about green policy. The article below, from the Guardian, from Greg Barker, the Climate change minister (at least there is one!), is a little more reassuring.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/oct/09/senior-tories-clash-enviroment-conservative-conference

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  12. Some of us haven't forgotten Nicholas Ridley, from the days when the sequence

    local authority and National Rivers Authority say "no"
    public inquiry inspector says "no"
    developer appeals to minister
    minister says "yes"

    became only too familiar.

    Some of us drove through or around Tewkesbury in 2007, when the folly of this procedure rebounded on floodplain householders unfortunate enough to have bought at-risk properties.

    Relaxing planning laws, considering the demands of vested interests above the good of the nation, and Orwellian inconsistency between ministry names and their real functions are scarcely the acts of the "greenest government ever".

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  13. Hi Mark

    SCIENTIFIC COWARDICE + POLITICAL CORRUPTION + STUPIDITY

    In oral evidence to the EFRA committee the RBCTs chairman - Professor John Bourne - was quite clear that from the start, his trial had a political steer which did not involve culling badgers at the end of it.

    He said to the EFRA Committee

    "Let us go back to 1999 when we started our work. It was made very clear to us by ministers of the day (Elliot Morley – sponsored by IFAW in his early days and now just out of jail after being found guilty of stealing money from the Nation - Trimbush) and they have not refuted it since - that elimination of badgers over large tracts of countryside was not an option for future policy".

    "It was on that basis that we designed the trial. We also had to take into account welfare considerations with respect to culling used, and limitations on culling with respect that cubs were not killed or died underground. Those were clear political limitations that we operated under; I have no reason to believe that those political limitations have changed".

    "We repeatedly say "culling, as conducted in the trial." It is important [that] we do say that. Those limitations were not imposed by ourselves. They were imposed by politicians."

    "Whatever has driven that I do not know (perhaps the £I Million bung from PAL helped - Trimbush?) but the fact is that a price has been put on the badger in this country which related to the way we were able to carry out our scientific work. That is exactly what we report".

    By the way as to Owen Paterson being an “enthusiast badger killer” – didn’t he have a pet badger when young?

    The simple truth of the matter is that when diseased badgers were being gassed in their setts just 300 cattle each year were slaughtered along with the decreasing necessity to gas setts.

    At that tipping point the so-called Conservationists come along and stupidly say – stop it! . The gassing stopped – and on that day TB in badgers increased – until 1997 when cattle slaughtered in that year numbered some 5,500.
    New Labour (Elliot Morley) ceases all culling in May 1997 – TB in cattle exploded exponentially as a result of Badger TB - to some 35,000 cattle slaughtered each year.

    If gassing had continued for a few more years there would be no TB in cattle and we would have a healthy badger population to enjoy! Just like other European countries!

    See what you “conservationists” have done?

    Who’s sorry now?

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  14. Mark, on page 262 of 'Fighting for Birds' you use the phrase 'If, after mature consideration, government chose....'

    So what's your betting now on the prospects of Owen Patterson, his version of Defra and 'mature consideration' ever appearing in the same sentence ? ?

    The irony in all this is that its as disastrous for the farmers the SoS is trying to please as it is for the Conservative Party and the future of the environment. never have so many sticking plaster solutions been gathered together in one place (with the exception of Wallasea, of course). I'm pleased, of course, at the Government action on Ash dieback - but it follows the sort of real action we need for the environment - the forestry/woodland sector has got together and agreed amongst themselves not to import Ash - and what is remarkable is that the alliance stretches from the Woodland Trust to UPM Tilhill, crossing traditional boundaries between conservation and 'commercial' forestry - I'd like to congratulate Norman Starks and George McRobbie personally !

    Where is all this going to end ? To me, the Badger cull gives farming the chance to lose its almost sainted, untouchable status with the general public, in exactly the same way forest sales gained it for forestry. But will the cull really run ? I get the feeling farmers are in shock at the level of public antipathy - traditionally Government & Defra have protected them, but not now - it's questionable whether Owen Patterson will even be able to protect himself, any more so than Caroline Spelman and Jim Paice were able to over forest sales.

    And what of Defra itself ? Will this MAFF in sheeps clothing actually come out in one piece or will this be the tipping point to an environment department that meets the needs of 2012 rather than 1947 ?

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  15. The problem is that he is not the SoS for the Environment but the SoS for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He clearly sees the environment bit as unimportant and the food and rural affairs bit as meaning promoting the interests of business in he countryside. We really need an independent Department of the Environment that actually speaks up for the Environment in Government.

    The Wallasea project may set an unfortunate precedent if the SoS now believes that wildlife conservation can simply be catered for off the back of major infrastructure projects. Wallasea provided a felicitous opportunity to create a large area of intertidal habitat using spoil from a project involving a tunnel beneath a densely urbanised land area. It would be delusional to think that all large infrastructure projects would provide such a neat set of environmental circumstances. Boris' vision of a Thames estuary airport island, for example, would be all pain and no gain from a wildlife point of view.

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    1. Jonathan - yes indeed. I'm sure (in my own mind) that the mention of Wallasea was to tick the wildlife box, tick the wildlife NGO box and act as an example of wildlife and business working together (which it is).

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      1. It is of course...but it wont be long before the concept of "ecological offset" comes to the fore. "We have created new habitat at Wallasea...we can therefore destroy the same area of saltmarsh to make a new airport". These people actually think that way.

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  16. I'm a bit confused with some of the points in the speech and looking for some clarification.
    1: £15.5 million into the research of a vacine for Btb. Why is so much being spent when in the speech it is said that the oral vaccination of Badgers is impractical and any vaccination of cattle would be against EU rules etc. And if a vacination was developed how would export the dairy product/meat products from any cows vacinated? Surely if the badger cull is the way forward then surely the money (15.5 MILLION!!) should stop going the bio-chemical companies...big saving there to be had.
    2: Better mobile phone and broadband.....HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I SEEN PROTEST ABOUT THE ERECTION OF MOBILE PHONE MASTS, a few examples around my way Lilbourne, Naesby, Watford village (not the place outside London) and Broughton. How do you propose better phone signals when nimby's protest it, the residents of Lilbourne made me laugh the most the village sits on the side of the M1 after junction 19...ever seen all those big aerial in the field!!!
    3: £45 million spent on a flood defence to protect 16,000 homes, homes that wouldn't need protecting if they hadn't been built next to the Trent on a flood plain in the first place. Same thing here in Northants the council allowed the development of Upton Mill, on a flood plain and have just given the go ahead for more building along the Nene which will increase the risk of flooding, unless MORE money is thrown at the flood defences. We in Northants have four schools near me that have closed down, prime for redevlopment, yet four years on they remain empty.
    If you add up all the projects I think the rural areas of the country are better off then the "sink" estate I live on.

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      1. FYI

        Vaccination is the holy grail for bTB it seems. But does it work?

        As that 74 per cent efficacy LIE bounced round the world, courtesy of the BBC and FERA, very belatedly Defra told its advisory group that:

        'the data should not be used to support this claim', and

        Jim Paice found the headline was 'misleading and unhelpful'.

        Nevertheless, on the basis that it did no harm to badgers, BCG was licensed as a Limited Market Product by the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD) and is now being administered to un-screened populations of badgers in several parts of England and Wales. And the reason?

        In 2011 Defra published this little gem:

        “Bovine tuberculosis Animal species: Badger vaccination: Description of the used vaccination, therapeutic or other scheme Badger BCG licensed in March 2010 has been used as part of the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project to build farmer confidence in vaccines as a key tool in an eradication programme.”

        To build farmer confidence?

        What an extraordinary reason for promoting a vaccine which doesn't work.

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          1. Hi Mark - I couldn't interpret your "Really" response accurately so here are the facts:-

            Vet Assocn for Wildlife Management

            The 74% Reduction

            Following our recent submission to the Government’s consultation on bovine TB and badger culling we feel it necessary to respond to the hugely misleading statement issued by BBC News on 1st December 2010, that the injectable Badger BCG vaccine reduces the incidence of bovine TB by 74%.

            The statement refers to a paper published last December in the Royal Society’s Scientific Journal, Proceedings B. at: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rspb.2010.1953

            The statement is endorsed by Dr.Macdonald, head of FERA, and Dr. Cheeseman both co- authors to the paper.

            The paper is in two parts: 1) Experimental challenge studies with captive badgers and 2) Field studies with the Badger BCG vaccine.

            The experimental studies confirm earlier work in 1988 at the Central Veterinary Laboratory, Weybridge that vaccinated badgers show a measure of protection following challenge with live virulent Mycobacterium bovis

            The field studies identify a different serological response as between vaccinated (4.5% responded) and non-vaccinated badgers (17.1% responded) using the StatPak test. However there was no significant difference in a second serological test (IFN_) or in the relative shedding rates of M. bovis between vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals. There was no attempt to measure the incidence of disease in badgers nor is it known what natural challenge the animals may have experienced, which will almost certainly have varied across the trial.

            We submit that the statement on BBC News is misleading because, as we pointed out in our original submission, serological responses alone cannot be regarded as direct evidence of protection. This can only be derived by assessment of disease in vaccinated as compared to control animals. At best the small scale field study, which only involved 262 animals and which was presumably not designed to assess efficacy, has simply revealed a 74% difference
            in the serological response between vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals. The statement in the published paper that there was a “beneficial effect of BCG on M. bovis infection in free living wild badgers” cannot therefore be justified on the evidence presented.

            The mischief appears to derive from the juxtaposition of the experimental studies and the field studies in the same paper. The protection demonstrated in the experimental studies seems to have been extrapolated to the field studies which are reflected in the BBC statement above. That the statement is misleading is demonstrated by recent statements from the single issue, badger protection lobby which is now collectively promoting vaccination as a viable alternative to culling and an overall solution to bovine tuberculosis.

            L.H.Thomas
            Secretary

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          2. Are they claiming that injecting badgers would reduce cattle Tb by 74%

            How on earth could vaccinating badgers reduce the incidence of bTB in cattle by 74% when we are constantly told that the spread is almost all from cattle to badgers and not vice versa?

            Surely one would expect injecting cattle to reduce badger tb by 74% if that were true?

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  17. Yup! DEFRA's words - not mine!

    You will be aware of the BBCs bias on badgers
    BBC gave out another announcement this week re vac.n but not actually tested - not in use - don’t know when available etc – maybe years away?

    And FERA’s man Robbie Macdonald – very plausible gent but struggles with the subject of fact. Dealt with him when a member of his staff caught TB from their badgers at Woodchester Park. He tries to time his “breakthrough” announcements just before a DEFRA announcement.

    He works in cahoots with Natural England – which is (also) opposed to the cull – It recently came up with an estimated badger pop’n of 190,000 – the lowest estimate since the Iron Age!

    And the EU has (again) told the UK that - words to the effect “there is no scientific evidence showing vaccination addresses TB in cattle – go kill some wildlife’ – the same message it delivered to Labour in 2006 and duly ignored

    The EU gives us (back) some £32 Millions

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    1. Trimbush, could you please give some evidence to the bias of the BBC in regards to badgers, because as I've seen it the coverage on the Newsnight seemed to be fairly evenly split (air time) for those involved in the debate. Also on a more subtle level Countryfile nearly every other week featured one of the presenters herd of cattle (I forget his name) and the problem he faced with Btb, tugging away on the viewers emotinal heart strings, cue farmer visibly upset (and he was). In fact can you tell me a programme or news feature that opposed the badger cull so I can catch up with it on the I-player. EVEN Springwatch/Autumnwatch never really touched the subject.

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  18. You do not have to look far!

    BBC reporting scrutinised after accusations of liberal bias – Guardian (today)

    Trust chairman Lord Patten launches new impartiality review

    The corporation has long faced accusations of liberal and leftwing bias from politicians and other sections of the media.

    The BBC's coverage of controversial topics including immigration, religion and the European Union will come under the spotlight in the review, which is expected to be published in early 2013. It may also include coverage of Islamophobia.

    It is the fifth impartiality review by the BBC Trust, the corporation's governing body, and follows an internal 2007 report that described a "largely unconscious self-censorship" that led to certain opinions being routinely under-represented.

    Newsnight

    “Mr Kendall said a feature on the BBC's Newsnight was biased against the cull.

    He was particularly upset at the decision to grant anonymity to an anti-cull protester who stated he would be taking direct action against the cull.

    He said the decision suggested anti-cull protesters were being intimidated by farmers at a time when farmers, themselves, were feeling ‘harassed and intimidated’ by animal rights activists

    “This suggestion is disgusting and clearly biased,” he wrote. “The BBC’s clear partiality in protecting the identity of someone whose clear intent is to disrupt a lawful process by himself taking illegal action goes against your own Editorial Guidelines and is shameful for an organisation which purports to be impartial, accurate and trusted.”

    He criticised the suggestion that the cull involved the ‘mass slaughter’ of badgers, claiming the phrase – ‘normally used to describe a barbaric genocide in a war zone’ – was lifted from the anti-cull lobby and clearly intended to ‘raise alarm and ramp up the hysteria’.

    He was also angry at the suggestion that the cull involved the "mass slaughter" of badgers, claiming the phrase was lifted from the anti-cull lobby and intended to "raise alarm and ramp up the hysteria".

    The NFU president said the Newsnight feature was ‘symptomatic of the BBC’s general biased coverage of the cull’ across its formats, although he singled Countryfile out as a notable exception of a BBC programme that covered the debate in an ‘impartial’ manner.”

    Regards

    PS I take it that you are against a badger cull - from the liberal left - like the BBC and take the Guardian

    As to "Adam's farm" he was allowed to refer to his cattle having TB but not the source - ie Badgers - he always referred to the distant field on which the cattle were grazed but not the peculiar characteristics of diseased badgers and their setts.

    The BBC is most reluctant to admit that the disease is transmitted from badgers - it - the BBC - says something like -" it is said by some that badgers ......"

    As Prof McInerney of the ISG & RBCT said:

    "In the last analysis - the problem of badgers and TB is fundamentally a political one"

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    1. Trimbush - badgers clearly transmit TB to cattle, and to other badgers, and they get it from cattle too. You'd have to be an idiot not to accept that.

      If what Peter Kendall says is your best evidence for BBC bias then you can't have much of a case. Petter Kendall had better hope that the cull does involve mass slaughter of badgers because otherwise it won't have any beneficial affect at all - not even a local and/or transitory one.

      But you've had your ration of badger stuff for this blog post - any comments on Mr Paterson's environmental credentials? He has some good points - please feel free to bring them out.

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      1. It's common knowledge that the tory party despises the BBC, and any other state-owned institution that they's not been able to get their thieving hands on. Anything which doesn't echo the twisted, bigoted rubbish constantly churned out by the likes of the Daily Moseley, is labelled as "leftist"; remember Tebbit's attack on Kate Adie, and Eric Forth calling Annie Lennox a subversive for appearing at the Mandela Day concert in 1988 (funny how Thatcher sat in the front row when the man visited the UK after his release). Despite the tory party's constant whining, there are many who choose to form opinions based on fact, not propaganda. Could this be why these shysters deliberately undermine state education at every opportunity?

        As for newspapers? I don't read them.

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      2. "You’d have to be an idiot not to accept that. " Are you calling Dr May an idiot Mark? Steady on! He's got a DPhil on astrophyshics!

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  19. Firstly I've mentioned in a previous comment on a different topic on this blog that I suffer from dyslexia and the small print and typeface used makes it very hard to read any papers, so I don't, not that a person's particular reading material has any relevance. As for my politics, sadly neither of the three parties seem to represent me or my beliefs, on some topics I might take what is considered "right wing" and on another topic "left wing" and sometimes even "centre ground". So Liberal Left, NO.
    Am I against a cull, YES. Why? Because I don't feel all the scientific options have been fully explored. If they had been and no "cure" can be found/developed and administer then I guess the only option left is a cull. But why is it we can find cures for cancer, clone cells and even animals, send men/women into space etc yet not find find/develop a vaccine for Btb.
    "mass slaughter" that phrase has been used by other news agencies for other stories from genocide to even "the mass slaughter of cows infected with foot and mouth" but just because animal rights activists decide to use the phrase, you object?
    You're wrong about Adam's farm not mentioning the source of potential infection, he even on one segment went along and watched infected badgers being given a vaccine and mentioned on another segment the problems with vaccinating cattle and the potential export problems if cattle were vaccinated, when he mentioned the field, he did say badgers were present and said "we have no way of telling if these badgers are infected, or if the badgers are passing the disease on to my cattle". Watch all the segments on the I-Player if you think I'm making that up.

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  20. I don't know he does sound too bad from my view point but then I'm a farmer ! Isn't it against the law to mention farming in the same sentence as Defra or was I just dreaming that ?

    Oh Giles you might want to look up the Enclosure acts ? " and our countryside is very largely shaped by economic forces. The pattern of woodland, fields, hedges and walls is there because of hardnosed businessmen doing stuff for cash." I presume you we're referring to all those pesky landlord in the 15, 16 century who wanted to keep sheep ? Dam good job Mark's blog wasn't about then as they would never have got away with destroying all those open fields and strip tillage. (!)

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    1. not down here Julian the land has been enclosed down here for far far longer. From what I understand some of the hedges are ancient woodland. And go down to west penwith and there are 5,000 year (I think?) old stone hedges .

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