Thursday, 16 December 2010


Sheffield has the highest proportion of students who choose to live in their university city after graduation in the UK.

When asked why they made that decision, they say it’s because Sheffield people are so friendly and then say it’s because Sheffield has all the benefits of a big city, but with easily accessible glorious countryside. It used to be described as ‘Sheffield in its golden frame’.

Of course, in South East Sheffield we have easy access to the big city, but the countryside is on our doorsteps. We are also fortunate in having a large number of groups and volunteers who are committed to maintaining and enhancing the local environment and supporting and protecting local wildlife.

However, not satisfied with launching attacks on students, council services, ordinary working families receiving housing or other benefits, and many more, the coalition government has now decided to wage war on badgers.

There is a long-standing problem with bovine TB in the UK. But, there is a huge amount of contradictory evidence about whether badgers give TB to cattle or cattle give it to badgers.  There is also no scientific evidence that culling badgers actually deals with the problem of TB in cattle; indeed a past trial shows it could actually make it worse. That was why the last Labour Government decided not to cull badgers, but to look for vaccination as a long term solution, as there is considerable scientific evidence that that policy would work

But now the coalition government is proposing that any landowner can apply for a licence to cull badgers. Leading scientists and ecologists have described the proposals as fundamentally scientifically flawed.

Why is this important locally? Well, we have a good badger population spread around the area. Although many – perhaps most – local residents have never seen them, a number of local groups and individuals have been quietly ensuring that their habitat is protected. They are very concerned about these proposals and the potential impact on local wildlife.

I agree with them. I have already made my protest to the government and will continue to do so, as I believe the proposals are just wrong-headed and irresponsible. I hope that no landowner in the area will apply for a licence but, if you hear differently, please let me know.

I suppose the only relief is that, given the new government’s commitment to try to lift the ban on fox-hunting, it hasn’t decided to re-introduce legalised badger-baiting. Or have I spoken too soon?