It is odd that a respected MPs’ committee has today claimed that badger culling will help curb TB in cattle. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee says in its report on the role of badgers in transmitting bovine TB, that farmers could be allowed to kill badgers so long as their action meets several conditions. The Committee refers frequently to the need for agreement to a cull from the scientists forming the government-appointed Independent Scientific Group (ISG) who have spent so much time studying possible links between badgers and bovine TB. But they ignore the conclusions of those scientists, published in June 2007, that ‘badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain’ and that ‘the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread constrained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone’. The RSPB grazes cattle on many of its nature reserves to stop vegetation becoming too dense for wildlife so we sympathise with farmers whose herds have been infected. But there is still no proof that culling badgers would have stopped those infections or that it will prevent outbreaks in future. Because of that, we will not voluntarily allow badger culling on our land. The ISG says small-scale culling could cause bovine TB to spread while eliminating badgers over a larger area would be both costly and difficult. A widespread cull could also seriously reduce badger numbers, putting at risk their conservation status. The MPs admit in their report that culling badgers alone will not eradicate bovine TB. They are right. Vaccines for badgers and cattle must be developed rapidly to properly tackle the disease. More cattle testing and preventative measures on farms are also important. It is crucial that money is not wasted on other, flawed, means of disease control.
This morning came news that managers are regularly working an average of 1.25 hours extra each day, just for the love of it.
If that is true, how can it be that so few senior executives have taken time to recognise the seriousness of climate change and how it will affect their businesses?
The Financial Times reports that a survey for the accountants KPMG found that those in charge have rarely put in place plans to deal with climate change. Few knew of the government’s target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. Presumably, fewer still realise that that figure should be 80 per cent if temperature rise this century is to be kept in reasonable check.
Governments should take the lead in initiating measures and taking action on climate change but business, especially the corporations for which the UK is a major base, must follow close behind.
Charities like the RSPB, WWF and Friends of the Earth can do their campaigning bit but that is small fry compared to the multinational muscle of companies like Shell, Barclays and Volkswagen.
Several times recently firms like these have called on politicians to take the lead, give them a framework within which to cut their emissions while maintaining and increasing their profits.
It will take a great deal of action to make any sort of dent in these companies' shareholder incomes. Excuses won’t do. Shareholders have grandchildren too.
Click here for the FT's KPMG report
And here for how we can cut greenhouse gas emissions
In his speech in Brussels on Thursday evening Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also said: 'We have very important targets to achieve for renewable energies but we need to be very careful about how and where they are developed. We need to make sure that when promoting biofuels we are not encouraging the destruction of habitats.'
How refreshing to find a politician understanding the issues so clearly and describing them so well.
Biofuels produce low carbon savings, exacerbate world hunger through removing land from food production and accelerate biodiversity loss through habitat destruction.
To be fair, many of us, including the RSPB, were a bit slow to realise the full impacts of biofuels so politicians, perhaps, cannot be blamed for being slow on the uptake too.
But where they can be blamed, and will be blamed, is when having realised the error of their previous views they remain inactive in changing damaging and discredited policies in future.
Anyone can be wrong – but those who remain inactive once they have realised their previous error are indeed culpable. When will UK politicians act decisively on this global issue?