Caffe Nero’s decision to stop stocking milk from dairy farms in badger cull areas has provoked outcry among British farmers. The threat of Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) will always be a worry for cattle farmers nationwide. For many, the relief that the farm is TB-free can soon be quashed by the next annual herd test that reveals infected cattle. And TB is not like tetanus, where a magic three-second injection can wipe out all of this fear. There is currently no licensed vaccination for it, and it’s unlikely that we’re going to get one soon.
From compulsory slaughterings to restrictions on livestock trade, a TB-infected farm is an economically damaged one. And when the average dairy farmer earns an annual salary of just £20,000, often putting in 100-hour working weeks, economic damage cannot simply be shrugged off. Furthermore, the impact that the stress of a TB infection can have on mental health is certainly underestimated.
Since badgers are one of the main natural carriers of TB, it’s highly understandable that the animal is at the front of this debate. Without a vaccination, there are two options here; operate annual culls of cattle with TB or stem the issue at its root and cull the badgers.
We’ve already seen the devastation that cattle culling can bring to the nation’s farmers and the rural economy through the Foot and Mouth Outbreak in 2001, where it is estimated that 745,000 cattle were culled in less than seven months. And when milk and beef have respective 16.1 per cent and 12 per cent shares in the agricultural economy alone, we can’t afford to lose our cows anytime soon.
I’m not in denial of the importance of our environment. We should all try to maintain harmony within our ecosystems, and I’m sure many environmentalists will be quick to point out the impact that a badger cull could have on the food chain. But it’s easy to forget that cattle are not only an economic asset but part of our national ecosystem too. And allowing environmental issues to compromise economic strength is certainly a step too far.
One organisation that appears to have taken this step is Caffè Nero. While their latest decision to boycott milk from farms in Somerset and Gloucestershire has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, this announcement appears to be more of a raising of the white flag than a genuine helping hand of support.
Having not paid a single penny of corporation tax since 2008, despite racking up sales of £1.2 billion, Caffè Nero’s prospects of further profits are looking more skinny latte than cappuccino grande.
Really, they don’t give a damn about badgers, or cows, for that matter. Siding with the environmentalists is just a tragically helpless last-ditch attempt at winning back some custom. And the irony of it all? In trying to save their business, they are willing to compromise their key product, in favour of a few badgers. It’s laughable – it really is.
Hardworking British famers cannot be allowed to lose any more. Supermarkets are constantly driving the prices of fresh, local produce lower and lower, crushing local farmers in the scenes of corporate competition.
And when tax-evading juggernauts such as Caffè Nero jump on the bandwagon to reconcile their own reputation, our rural industries will only decline further. I certainly don’t want my next caramel latte to be made with Chinese milk.