DBBW’s public meeting at Stalbridge last night was a great success. Because we were attempting to get pro- as well as anti-badger cull people along we were taking a bit of a chance, and really weren’t sure how many people would turn up!
Stalbridge is in the middle of the North Dorset culling zone and the venue – the village hall – was not exactly high profile but we had around 70 people attend, including farmers. Our panel finally consisted of: Peter Martin (Badger Trust), Melvyn Seddon (Dorset badger vaccinator), Pauline Kidner (Secret World), Mark Jones (Born Free) and Trevor Cligg (Chair of Dorset NFU). We also had Sergeant Ross Brown, the Bronze Commander of our police liaison team, who was accompanied by one of our wildlife officers.
They were all given just 5 minutes to explain their position on badger culling, except for Mark who did a PowerPoint presentation on the science and needed a bit more time. Ross spoke about how policing the cull worked, and Trevor, who has a dairy farm, badgers, is under restrictions because of bovine TB explained how having TB in the herd affects farmers in many different ways.
This was followed by a long Question and Answer session, with people wanting to know more about the science. This was where all the information came pouring out, with speakers fully engaged with the audience and each other. As Chair, I found myself shuttling the microphone backwards and forwards between the speakers, while Rainbow was busy passing the roving microphone to people in the audience.
It was all good humoured and everyone was respectful of others’ opinions. There were no rants or angry speeches – but I had warned people that the police would deal with any bad behaviour! Questions seemed to be equally shared between farmers and badger people.
One subject dominated the conversation – cattle vaccination. Why were we still waiting for this to happen? Trevor said that it couldn’t happen without a DIVA test, and there wasn’t one. Pauline said there was, and explained it had been successfully tested in Ethiopia but that the EU wanted it tested under our climate conditions. Defra had called for farmers willing to take part in field trials, but nothing appears to have happened.
And Trevor came up with something which we didn’t know – Defra is planning to test some of the badgers killed in this year’s culling for bTB. However, the testing will not be done by an independent body, which was not well received! Although we may not have changed people’s minds, everyone was much better informed and left with plenty to think about.