THE NEWSDESK: Why badger cull is turning to farce
THE Mystery Machine is parked up in a layby somewhere in Somerset.
Velma has just about had enough of the obsessive giant sandwich making, twitching at any sound outside in the autumn night, and Daphne and Fred’s inability to drag themselves away from the mirror.
Daphne says absent-mindedly: “So explain it to me again. Why are were here? We haven’t got a Defra licence to shoot badgers, have we?”
Velma sighs and adjusts her glasses.
“No, Daphne, we haven’t. We’re here because the badger cull to stop the spread of TB has been extended to November 1 and our job is to make sure the people who shoot them do it humanely...”
Shaggy shrugs his shoulders: “Shooting badgers! Doesn’t sound too humane to me, eh Scooby?”
Scooby shakes his head vigorously and makes a doleful sound.
Fred scratches his head. “Isn’t there a vaccination they could give the badgers?”
Velma perks up. This is the first sign of life in Fred’s grey matter for months.
“Why yes, Fred, there is. They’re vaccinating badgers in Pembrokeshire right now.”
Fred is thinking. Velma can tell by the fact his eyes are closed and he’s concentrating hard.
“So is there a vaccination for the cattle?”
Velma is positively beaming. Two thoughts in minutes!
Fred’s brow knits: “So why don’t they give the cows the shot?”
Velma sighs: “Because the EU has banned vaccinating cattle because the test it has for TB can’t tell if a cow has the disease or has been vaccinated, and won’t issue a certificate to say the cow can be sold TB free.”
Daphne adjusts her scarf:
“But aren’t the badgers just leaving, taking TB with them to other areas?
“Aren’t scientists working on a test which can tell the difference between the vaccination and TB? Aren’t they finding up to 68 per cent protection for cattle in test TB vaccination areas in Ethiopia and Mexico?
“Can’t the EU just look at its rules?
“And isn’t badger vaccination going to be cheaper than all this shooting and monitoring and carrying out autopsies on dead badgers?”
No one has the time to answer her. There is a violent scrabbling sound outside the van and an eerie wailing.
Fred jumps outside to be confronted with a giant badger waving its paws at him.
The team run after the badger into the woods.
Scooby and Shaggy become separated and find themselves being chased by the badger, while attempting to consume pasties.
Velma comes to their aid with a cunningly-placed net which hoists the badger into the air.
Velma reaches into the net and takes the false head off the man in the giant badger costume.
The team shout together: “Owen Paterson, environment secretary!”
Fred asks: “Why? Why did you do it?”
Paterson blinks into the light: “I would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky badgers. They moved the goalposts.”
Remembering those who paid the ultimate price for coal
TODAY is the centenary of Britain's worst mining disaster.
An explosion tore through Universal Colliery, Senghenydd, on October 14 1913, killing 439 miners.
The probable cause was the ignition of firedamp, though scores were killed by the afterdamp, the noxious gases created by the explosion. Lethal quantities of carbon monoxide, lack of oxygen.
Today, a fitting memorial to those miners and all those who lost their lives in the industry is being unveiled at Senghenydd.
For me, it's a truly important day.
Because for me, this memorial also marks those whose lives were blighted by the pits.
My grandfather, unable to walk up our hill without stopping because pneumoconiosis had claimed one of his lungs. My grandmother whose body shook every time she heard a siren like the pit siren to alert the rescue teams of any accident.
The ex-miner who lives down the road from me whose daily walk sees him pushing an oxygen tank before him.
And those who are still living with the physical and mental scars.
There can be a tendency to romanticise the mines. They were the lifeblood of our Valleys towns and the place where friendships were formed like no other friendships, out of adversity.
But they were also brutal, filthy, frightening and dangerous places, where things went on which men were didn't want to tell their wives and mothers because they knew it would make them terrified every time they set foot inside them.
They were places where mothers prayed their sons would not end up.
They were places where people died and were maimed so trains and ships could run and our homes could be heated.
Lest we forget.
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