Half-truths on badgers

THE recent letter from Ron Francis (Readers’ Times, May 15) about badgers and bTB contains so many inaccuracies and half-truths that a complete reply could fill the Hereford Times.

So here are just a few factual corrections:

* Mr Francis claims that the links between badgers and TB infection are "well proven". Where does his proof come from?

It can’t be from the recent culls in Somerset and Gloucester because none of the badgers slaughtered by the inept “marksmen” were tested for TB. At least one national organisation offered to pay for such tests but their offer was turned down by the NFU – one can only wonder why. Testing has been carried out in two other areas though; a totally random testing of 100 “roadkill” badgers in Cheshire produced none with TB and testing on badgers in the vaccination areas of Wales produced exactly the same result.

* He also talks about the “widespread” nature of TB – in fact, according to Defra’s own figures the rates of infection are dropping and have been since the government introduced new bio-security measures.

The largest drops in infection come from Wales and Northern Ireland - where there is no culling of badgers.

* His claim that badgers are “largely responsible”

for the decline in hedgehog numbers is fanciful – if he was right, why has the British Hedgehog Society not come out in favour of culling? And the decline in songbirds comes mainly as a result of more intensive farming practices; thousands of miles of hedgerows have been “grubbed out” by farmers in recent years, resulting in major habitat loss.

* No-one would deny that TB is a problem for farmers. But the numbers of cattle slaughtered because of TB are not only dropping (as noted above) but are much, much less than the numbers of cattle slaughtered by farmers for other reasons – over 125,000 cattle were slaughtered last year because of infertility compared to 27,000 because of TB.

* And if TB is so deadly, then why does Defra sell TB-infected meat into the human food chain? And why is this meat not labelled as such? Haven’t we learned enough from the horsemeat affair?

But the part of his letter which shows Mr Francis’s true ignorance of facts is his ridiculous statement that vaccination does not cure TB.

Ask any doctor or pharmacist – the purpose of all vaccination is to prevent infection, not to cure disease.

Polio vaccinations did not cure polio - they prevented it.

The same is true of any disease and of all vaccinations.

The natural lifespan of a badger is five years. By employing a vaccination programme we can ensure bTB-free badger populations in five years.

But continuing the slaughter of badgers will only ensure that the relatively small number of infected badgers (less than 5% according to one set of Defra figures) will move into previously TB-free areas.

Cumbria and Durham have both, historically, been TB-free but they are no longer so; recent outbreaks in both counties have not been caused by badgers but by movement of infected cattle from other parts of England.

And we have the largest number of annual cattle movements in Europe.

SARA SILOKO Waggoner’s Way, Hereford

Friends with secret cloak

FURTHER to Cllr Peter McCaull’s letter (Readers’ Times , May 22) I would like to add that organisations such as the so-called Friends of Leominster, lose any public credibility by hiding behind a cloak of secrecy.

How can we be expected to have trust in an organisation that is not open and above board? And similarly, how can we have trust in the Green Party, some of whose members appear to be promoting the Friends of Leominster?

When Herefordshire Council last debated the planning applications for the proposed new supermarkets in Leominster, Cllr Felicity Norman (Green Party) opposed the application. Was that the Green Party talking, or was her speech written by the Friends of Leominster?

GRAHAM CARPENTER Oldfields Close, Leominster

Have a say on Local Plan

THE Local Plan has been deposited for final comments ahead of government inspection from September. The plan can be found at herefordshire.gov.uk/local-plan

Any comments or views as to whether or not the plan is sound can be made before July 3. After seven years of preparation, consultation and refinement we now have a complete plan that incorporates a strategic housing, planning and Infrastructure requirement to meet the needs of our growing county up to 2031.

It is an ambitious and positive plan.

The council’s priorities have been adults, children and local economy.

The latter has a specific focus around housing , jobs and roads.

This plan lays out the criteria for meeting these challenges and the where and how these can be delivered.

Support for encouraging business to provide more and better paid jobs is directed at the strategic employment sites. Key developments will be the Rotherwas enterprise zone and industrial estates across the market towns.

Broadband rollout will encourage businesses in every locality and entrepreneurs to set up in Herefordshire, from live work units to larger sites.

The number of strategic housing sites needed can only come about from providing roads and infrastructure to support the demand over the lifetime of this plan.

The planned western bypass is the major road building scheme to unlock the potential of these priorities and is the only practical infrastructure option to deliver the aspirations of this county in offering a sustainable future to meet the challenge of growing our working age population.

Those of you engaged in neighbourhood plans have already discovered just how important the Core Strategy is for planning the future in your own areas and through the linked Infrastructure Delivery Plan.

Just how important this plan is for all our futures if we are to lessen the impact of our growing older population and their needs is yet to unfold. However, the development of the new livestock market, the recently opened Old Cattle Market site, the proposed central link road to aid traffic flow and open up inner city housing projects, the enterprise zone and cycle routes through the city and river crossing, the employment and housing sites in our market towns, and support for provision of housing in the rural area are parts of this jigsaw.

With Council support for a higher education facility the future is looking bright for the next generation of young people wanting to live and work in Herefordshire.

I believe our plan is sound, I look forward to your support in making it happen.

CLLR PHILIP PRICE Cabinet member - Infrastructure Ward member - Golden Valley North.

Apathy seen with turnout

I ATTENDED Leominster Town Council open public meeting on Wednesday, May 20.

Once again Leominster apathy was laid bare.

Out of 12,000, only eight residents present! It was heartening to gauge a positive atmosphere at this meeting, unlike some in the past.

The newish town clerk, Iain Plumtree, is a cheery breath of fresh air, very effective in efforts to give a warm welcome to all. Cllr Norman led from the front with impressive replies to questions, as did Cllr McCaul.

Resident Terry Collier made an excellent comment on cuts in grass cutting (no pun intended), if only everyone was as caring about the town!

Terry attends every monthly council meeting, year in year out; is it not time he was made an honorary councillor?

RAY BORGE Leominster

Sort out the grass cutting

WELCOME to Hereford, if you can find it in the long grass.

Grass cutting on the Great Western Way (not so great looking now) nil, grass cutting on Netherwood Road, Rotherwas, three times in three weeks. People using the lines as a means of getting to work, school etc by cycle or on foot, quite a lot daily. People using Netherwood Road, mainly by car, cycle etc mostly five days a week. Netherwood Road is not a main road, so why the priority? Come on, Hereford Council, get your act together.

MRS P MELLOR Dulas Avenue, Hereford