Badgers. Cattle. TB.
It's a thorny problem, with farmers ending up financially crippled on the one hand, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, badgers end up dead.
I've pretty much stayed out of the badger culling debate, other than signing the petition against what is, after all, another ploy to legally slaughter more of the nation's wildlife, because I appreciate that farmers have to make a living. And if you want a breakfast consisting of cereals, milk, bacon, eggs, sausages and toast, then you're going to need a farmer at some point.
However, as a profession, I think they have been hoodwinked by some dodgy interpretations of scientific statistics and have jumped to a few ill-judged conclusions of dubious benefit to anyone. Least of all a badger.
I have let these thoughts fester away in the back of my mind for months, whilst the debate has rumbled on between Government, its scientists, the farmers' lobby and conservation bodies.
The official position: DEFRA
The case for the prosecution: NFU
The case for the defence: The Badger Trust, Badgerland
Two weeks ago, however, I reached a tipping point and, today, the glacial slowness of my thoughts finally reached a keyboard as the second licence to cull badgers was issued by Natural England.
What happened two weeks ago? You may well ask. But first, some background.
In the 1930s, here in the UK, there was a huge problem with bovine TB. An epidemic spiralling out of control, that was only halted by cattle-based controls. Towards the end of the 20th Century, the infection began to increase again. Coincidentally, the first badger known to have bovine TB was discovered in 1971, and this brought the animal into the steely glare of the farming community at a critical time. The increase couldn't possibly have anything to do with a relaxation of cattle testing and movements, nor an intensification of the practice of over-wintering huge herds in barns and sheds? Where the bacterium could easily spread? Hell, no.
Up until the time that milk was routinely pasteurised, humans could contract TB from cattle. These days, in the UK, this is now a very rare occurrence because of pasteurisation. There are strict controls in place to deal with milk and meat from infected cattle.
Which brings me back to my tipping point.
Broadcaster and food writer Clarissa Dickson Wright reckons that we should eat badgers, so that the culled animals aren't wasted. O...kay, it's quite a thrifty argument, waste not, want not, and all that. They probably taste quite nutty, since every wildlife presenter worth their salt is out there, night after night, with a bag of peanuts to tempt the badgers to put in an appearance for the cameras. We should probably put an allergy warning label on them.
But hang on a minute, we're killing the badgers because they're judged to spread TB.
If we can eat a badger with TB, why the f**k can't we eat a cow with TB and not shoot the bloody badgers?