So why commission £49m of research then shred it? Because the National Farmers’ Union wants to see blood, and it is neither prepared to wait nor to accept measures as tough as Bourne proposes. Up and down the country it is whipping up farmers to demand that badgers are killed. Yesterday I spoke to a tenant farmer who had just attended an NFU meeting that unanimously supported the cull. A question revealed that not one of the farmers in the room had read the consultation document: they simply accepted the NFU’s word that the killing had to happen. Under this government, the NFU rules. According to the small farmers I know, it tends to be dominated by the biggest and most arrogant landowners – rather like the Tory party. Last week the government quietly abandoned its commitment to stop the de-beaking of chickens and to stop game birds from being kept in cages. The badgers are just another lump of meat to be thrown to the beast. The cull might help to destroy the industry these bloody-minded dolts claim to defend. But they don’t seem to care, just as long as something is done other than imposing rigorous controls on their business. Killing wildlife will do just fine.
Roy Hattersley, a Labour Party elder and prolific author including books about dogs, wrote yesterday in The Guardian about public policy on dogs.
Of course, the call for regulation will be greeted by cries of anguish from the vested interests. There will be particular opposition from the pedigree lobby, which makes its money out of pure-breed dogs – many of which have been inbred to the point of physical deformity in order to emphasise their exclusive features. They are right to worry about how a law requiring the proper care of dogs will affect them. Breeding dogs with genetic defects is another form of cruelty – made worse by the suffering being a callously premeditated way to charge exclusive prices. In this country we talk of dogs with a sentimentality that is not always matched by the sense and sympathy with which we treat them. Some are abused. Some are neglected. Some are damaged by misplaced indulgence. The best way to avoid all those tragedies is the regulation of dog ownership through a contract that sets out a duty of care. Real dog-lovers will not object.