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Brian May and animal rights hypocrisy 0


Brian MayIt came as some surprise last weekend to find that Queen musician Brian May had been leasing the stalking rights on his land. The news was broken by the Sunday Times, who found that he was receiving payments of £750 a year for the right to shoot deer on his Middlemarsh estate. Many other papers picked up on this story because of its significance since Dr May has become a figurehead of the animal rights movement.

This is more than just irony. Brian May is the self styled saviour of animals. Not a TV, radio or newspaper interview is complete without the obligatory comment from him “standing up” for the animals. He has vehemently opposed any form of culling, but was most vocal in the recent case of the proposed badger cull. The fact that a millionaire rock star raised his own dwindling profile at the expense of dairy farmers on the brink of collapse and bankruptcy is hard enough to accept. The fact that he did this having profited from a deer cull on his own land is indefensible.

Dr May stood shoulder to shoulder with the RSPCA and other animal rights groups to oppose the badger cull at all costs, including boycotting milk from already pressed farmers. As I reported last week, he also endorsed the policy that would make public the names of all those involved in culling, regardless of the consequences. In a cruel twist of poetic justice, May has been the one whose name was made public for allowing shooting to take place on his land.

Now the tables have been turned, Brain May appears to prefer secrecy about what happens on his own land. The word hypocrite hardly does justice to the level of duplicity displayed, but at least he must start to comprehend how the affected farmers feel.

Barney White-Spunner
Executive Chairman
Countryside Alliance

Badgers, Tuberculosis (TB) and the Danger to Cattle and Humans. Is Culling the Answer? 2


badger-cullingBadgers were first discovered to carry bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in 1971. Since then much research has been undertaken and badgers are now widely considered to represent a significant wildlife ‘reservoir’ of this disease.

Cattle are by far the most susceptible domestic species to the M.bovis bacteria, although farmed deer, boar, bison, buffalo, goats, llamas and alpacas can also be affected.

How does TB spread?

In hotspot areas of cattle TB, the badger population is considered to play a significant role in maintaining the disease and in preventing its eradication. Although other wild mammals carry the disease, badgers have high rates of infection (the number of animals contracting the disease) and high rates of being infectious (where an infected animal then starts spreading the disease).

The ecology and behaviour of badgers means the potential transmission to cattle is high. For example, badgers often forage in pasture, and can spread the disease by cattle sniffing infected faeces and urine. It is considered that these factors make badgers an important link in the cycle of disease. Other routes of disease transmission include direct contact between badgers and cattle and transmission within farm buildings where cattle are housed or feed is stored.

Once a bovine (e.g. a cow) is infected, however, it does not immediately start spreading the disease. TB develops very slowly and it takes time for lesions to grow in the lungs, and these lesions have to open up before cattle start coughing out the bacteria.

What are the symptoms of TB?

TB is primarily a disease of the respiratory system but very few cases are reported in cattle. This is possibly because the symptoms are very similar to other respiratory diseases but also because regular TB testing of dairy herds catches the infection long before it becomes a chronic disease visually affecting the animal.

As lesions are most common in the lungs (called tubercules) a hard, dry, short cough is usually the first symptom, leading to more frequent coughing and laboured breathing. As this continues cattle will lose condition and later cough up blood.

What is the scale of the TB issue in humans?

The Department of Health still views TB as a ‘major public health problem’ and of the 9.2 million new worldwide cases of TB in 2007 (resulting in 1.7 million deaths!) around 7,750 were in the UK.

In the UK and across the world, more than 99 per cent of new cases in humans are caused by M.tuberculosis and not M.bovis. The risk is still there and so TB is a notifiable disease in all farmed animals. TB in humans presents with the same symptoms whether it is caused by M.tuberculosis and not M.bovis.

How do farmers prevent their cattle being infected by TB?

Farmers are required to undertake regular dairy herd surveillance testing for the disease. If cattle test positive they are sent for compulsory slaughter. In 2010 around 25,000 cattle were slaughtered costing the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds. Once a farm has had TB detected in its herd, movement restrictions are placed on that farm. This means animals cannot be moved off the farm (unless straight to slaughter) until the herd passes two further tests, to ensure TB is no longer detected in the herd.

Farmers can often be surprised at the level of badger activity in and around farm buildings, so they also take practical measures to prevent their animals contracting the disease from badgers. Husbandry measures, such as ensuring gates on cattle sheds and feed stores fit well and are shut at night and raising troughs and salt licks.

The financial implication to farmers.

Regular testing and slaughter of animals is a stressful and costly affair. Although farmers receive money for the animals slaughtered, the amount received does not always accurately reflect the true cost of that animal, for example when high value breeding stock contract the disease.

Government figures state that every time a farmer has a breakdown in the herd it will cost an average of £33,000, although this figure can vary greatly between farms. The compensation paid does not cover any consequential losses, for example the loss in milk sales, or the cost of hiring more labour to help with TB testing.

Is culling badgers the right answer?

A poll conducted by the BBC last year found that about two-thirds of the public oppose culling, with majorities in every age group, region and across both genders.

I’m sure the general perception of badgers is a classically beautiful English animal, but before the question of, ‘do you oppose killing badgers to curb cattle tuberculosis’ with a simple yes or no answer, might it be better to enlightened the general public that it’s ultimately costing the taxpayer about £100m per year and resulting in the death of tens of thousands of cattle?

Your views & thoughts?

Wind Turbine Bursts into Flames at Ardrossan Windfarm in Severe Weather 1


ardrossan-windfarmA wind turbine at the Ardrossan Windfarm in Ayrshire, Scotland bursts into flames due to high winds and severe weather.

The 30 megawatt windfarm has a total of fifteen Danish manufactured turbines which each stand 100m (328ft) high. Rather ironically today, one of the wind turbines, which are obviously made to harness the natural power of the wind, couldn’t cope and burst into flames.

Wind power isn’t necessarily the wonderful gift that Chris Huhne and the government would like us to believe. They are now proposing to build another 32,000 wind turbines in addition to the existing c.3,000 turbines. Are these going to be build near houses? The video below also highlights the dangers of wind turbines in high winds.

The Government’s Crazy New Planning Proposals 2


village_1453522fThe government’s new planning proposals seem rife for abuse by developers and further open the door for the alleged ‘backhanders’ made to the planners.

The proposals basically force councils to make a “presumption in favour of development”, which as Alice Hardiman, acting head of planning for the RSPB said: “This is effectively allowing planning applications to be bought and sold.”

The Greenest Planning Ever Coalition was set up last October to represent 22 organisations who oppose the proposals with members like the RSPB, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Woodland Trust, WWF and the National Trust.

Among the concerns in the national planning policy framework (NPPF), are the greenfield sites, which are not officially designated as greenbelt, will be at risk of development.

The groups have said that if the proposals were not amended they could backfire on the government in the same way that proposals to sell off the forestry estate in England this year forced the government into an embarrassing U-turn

“Planning is for people, not for profit,’ Dame Fiona Reynolds, director of the 3 million-strong National Trust, wrote. “This finally sounds the death-knell to the principle established in the 1940s that the planning system should be used to protect what is most special in the landscape, creating a tool to promote economic growth in its stead… Weakening protection now risks a return to the threat of sprawl and uncontrolled development that so dominated public debate in the 1930s.”

Developers will only need to show that their proposals will deliver growth. Other considerations, such as impact on communities, nature and landscape, will be pushed aside.

Rural and Agricultural Theft on the Rise 1


police-tractorTheft in 2010 is estimated to have cost the UK farming industry £50m, an increase of 20% from 2009, says the NFU Mutual.

The NFU Mutual Rural Crime Survey (RCS) was based on the 2010 claims experience of its branch offices in rural towns and villages and reports that the most popular targets for rural thieves were not livestock or crops but chainsaws, electric drills and lawnmowers.

In England, theft cost farmers £42.8m in 2010, up 26% on the previous year. In Scotland, the cost of claims rose by 57% since 2009, to £1.4m, and in Northern Ireland it rose by 28% to £3.8m. But in contrast in Wales, the cost was £1.7m, down by 48% from the previous year.

The theft of tractors, heating oil, scrap metal and livestock from farms and rural businesses tended to be during broad daylight, 59% of branches said the most common time of day for thieves to act was between midnight and 0600.

Nearly 60% said thefts from farms or outbuildings was the biggest problem, while 12% said garden sheds and garages attracted thieves. When asked why thieves target the countryside, 41% of branches said the large areas involved made it difficult to police, while 32% claimed there was less chance of thieves being seen.

Lindsay Sinclair, chief executive of NFU Mutual, said: “Whether it’s the recession, tighter security in towns, or the rise in oil, meat and scrap metal prices countryside people are feeling the blight of rural crime on their land.

“However, country people are not taking this scourge lying down. We’ve already seen that by working with the police forces and manufacturers, tractor theft and organised rural crime can be tackled head-on. A united front against crime in the countryside will help to protect communities from being targeted further with vigilance as the watchword.”

TCI Renewables destruction continues at Woodmancott Down 0


woodmancott-down-wind-farm-smallTCI Renewables are now trying to destroy the North Downs countryside in Hampshire with the proposed application for eleven 150 metre high wind turbines at Woodmancott Down, which would be visible from up to 20 miles away.

The proposed location is centred on the hamlets of Popham and Woodmancott and surrounded by the villages of Preston Candover, Chilton Candover, Brown Candover, East Stratton, West Stratton, North Waltham, Dummer and Axford.

Are these energy companies entirely blind to the beauty of the UK countryside, or purely driven by greed and indifference to the damage they cause? This damage can come in many forms:

  • the environmental damage to the surrounding area, both during and after construction
  • the obvious visual damage to the countryside and views
  • a number of safety issues during the construction with huge increases in lorry traffic on small country lanes
  • the financial cost to the local community of falling house prices

When are we going to say enough is enough and stop the destruction of our ‘green and pleasant land’?!!

No Woodmancott Down Wind farm

Rural Stats about the UK Countryside 0



  • 5.5 million - The number of people employed by the rural economy
  • 800 - Village shops close each year
  • £2.2 billion - Domestic food and drink contribution to the UK economy
  • British livestock is highly sought after for international breeding
  • Agricultural contribution to the economy in £millions
    • 2001 - £6720
    • 2002 - £6852
    • 2003 - £7151
    • 2004 - £6900
    • 2005 - £6750
    • 2006 - £6550
  • 70% of all our drinking water comes from the upland areas of the UK
  • UK Land use across the UK - 80% farmland - 20% non-farmland
  • UK self-sufficiency - 60% domestically grown food - 40% imported food
  • The UK is the 7th largest producer of wool globally
  • The rural tourism sector generates £14 billion from 75 million visits per year
  • 60,000 new entrants are needed in the farming industry in the next decade

Source: The Prince’s Countryside Fund

The true cost of countryside living 0


countryside-allianceAn influential new report into the cost of living in rural areas has confirmed what many have long suspected - living in the countryside is more expensive than in urban areas.

The report was launched by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Researchers used the charity’s nationally-accepted Minimum Income Standard to work out that a single person needs to earn £15,600 to get by if they live in a rural town, £17,900 a year if they live in a village and £18,600 if they live in a hamlet or in the remote countryside. A person living in an urban area needs £14,400 a year to meet the specified minimum.

People living in the countryside are hit by having to own and run a car. They face higher energy bills from heating older homes and are forced to use more expensive fuels if they are not connected to the gas network.

For many families in rural areas, it is a constant struggle to make ends meet, meaning they often have to spend up to twenty per cent more than an urban family to match their standard of living. This is despite the average wage in the countryside being much lower than the average wage of those who work in towns and cities.

A single person living in a rural area needs to earn at least £8.89 an hour, fifty per cent above the average minimum wage, just to be able to afford the minimum acceptable standard of living. For families with children living in remote areas the difference is even greater - to earn enough to get by, a typical two child family living in a hamlet needs to earn as much as £72 a week more than the same family living in an urban area.

The rising cost of living means many rural families are forced to move to urban areas. Long-established community networks are broken up as families struggle to set foot on the property ladder or move away to be closer to local amenities at no extra cost.

This report confirmed the fundamental reason behind the Countryside Alliance’s recent Rural Manifesto - people living in the countryside do not seek special treatment but they do want fair treatment. The Alliance will continue to campaign for improved facilities such as transport links, post offices and schools. We will also strive to work towards a countryside where local families are not forced out by rising property prices, a lack of social housing and the financial inability to live and work in the area.

Campaigning for a thriving countryside has always been vital to the Alliance’s existence. At the heart of all that we do are the people who live and work there.

Alice Barnard
Chief Executive
Countryside Alliance