Badgers and bTB

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time with me will know how passionate I am about wildlife conservation. I often get asked about the issues surrounding badgers and bTB, as many people are unaware of the ins and outs. So I decided to write a short blog detailing some of the facts and figures!

What is bTB? 

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a highly infectious disease, devastating thousands of farms annually by infecting livestock.  By law, infected cows must be killed and over 300,000 cattle have been culled since 2008. The occurrence of bTB has increased dramatically in recent years and has become a massive burden on both the taxpayer and the farming industry.

How are badgers involved? 

Badgers are blamed for a significant portion of the spread of Btb to cattle. 

It has been proven that badgers (along with many other mammals) can carry and transfer the disease. However the primary cause of the spread is cattle to cattle contact, often referred to as ‘kissing cows’. 

Although badgers can transfer the disease, when tested most of the badgers infected were found to have foreign strains of the virus. This means that infected cows have spread to the badgers rather than the other way around! 

How does the virus get transferred? 

Research has shown that badgers and cows avoid direct contact, so the virus is primarily transferred between the two indirectly; through contact with urine and faeces or via shared food and water sources. 

So what’s the solution? 

The government has decided the best way to tackle the problem is a nationwide cull with badgers being slaughtered in the tens of 1000’s. Along with a huge number of the public and the scientific community, I am strongly opposed to the culls, believing it’s not a solution at all. 

Throughout the cull farmers can earn £50 per badger killed. Combined with equipment, policing and admin costs this runs the cost to the taxpayer into the £1000’s per badger killed. A recent culling project in Wales actually cost £76,000 per badger culled! 

Along with the financial cost, It has also been shown that culling badgers can actually cause bTB to increase according to scientific studies, via the perturbation effect

Despite strong evidence showing the ineffectiveness of the cull, the government continues to increase the number of cull areas. 

Vaccination, an ethical alternative?

The badger vaccination project has the potential to drastically reduce bTB transmission between badgers and cattle, by preventing vaccinated badgers from being infected. Unfortunately vaccination does not cure infected badgers. However it does protect additional badgers from contracting the disease. Over time, the already infected animals will die off, and without new hosts to spread to the number of infected badgers would massively decrease. 

Sadly vaccination is not perfect and doesn’t offer a full solution to the problem on its own. But when combined with tougher biosecurity measures such as stricter controls on movement of livestock and disinfecting clothing and vehicles before and after contact with animals, it offers a real and viable solution.

Vaccination offers a much more ethical and cost effective solution to the problem. It’s nearly 20 times cheaper to vaccinate a badger over culling and when combined with the lack of policing needed and it makes complete financial sense. Data following the 2015 cull shows that the cost of vaccination was £82 per badger in contrast to the £2,441.89 the government spent per badger culled! 

Here in Derbyshire and the Peak District the vaccination project has been working hard with a team of volunteers to vaccinate as many of our badgers as possible, in a bid to convince the government that it is a much more ethical, effective and cheaper alternative. 

You can find more about the Derbyshire vaccination project here

Landscape Photographer of the Year 2017

Following on from my success last year, I’m thrilled to announce that my image ‘Snowstorm Over The Dragon’s Back’ has been awarded 2nd place in the ‘Classic View’ category in Landscape Photographer of the Year. Winning me a place in the book, travelling exhibition and a cash prize. A second of my Peak District images titled ‘Twisted Old Trees’ was also commended in the same category and will appear in the book.

When I received the email I couldn’t have been more surprised, after the initial shortlisting process I hadn’t heard anything for a long time and had actually resigned myself to the fact that my entries hadn’t been successful. Just as I was about to enter one of the images into another competition though, I received an email to say that my entry had been awarded runner up in the ‘Classic View’ category, a great accolade!

Twisting Trees - Commended in LPOTY 2017

‘Twisted Old Trees’ – Commended LPOTY 2017

I would just like to add that competitions are in no way the be all and end all of photography, there are many very talented photographers earning a living from photography that don’t even get shortlisted. Photography is very subjective and it comes down to what the judges like on the day. That said, it is a great accolade and always very rewarding to get some appreciation for the images we create!

Finally I would like to congratulate the rest of this years commended and award winning photographers in Landscape Photographer of the Year. The standard of images is truly incredible and it really motivates me to keep improving and progressing with my own work.

You can see more of this years winners and highly commended entries on the LPOTY website, the Guardian and the Daily Mail.

Autumn Has Arrived in the Peak District

Autumn is by far my favourite season, misty mornings, explosions of colour on the trees and a hive of activity from wildlife as they prepare for the long cold winter ahead.

I went out last week to capture one of the first autumn mornings of the year. After a 4.30 AM alarm I dragged myself out of bed and headed out into the Peak District to start my morning off at Ramshaw Rocks in Staffordshire, with the idea of capturing the ragged rocky edge jutting out of thick golden mist. Unfortunately when I arrived nature had other plans and the area was completely clear, so after passing wonderful thick fog en route, I decided to go with Plan B and head to nearby Chrome and Parkhouse Hills. By the time I got there though the sun was about to rise and I was running out of time. I drove round all the small surrounding roads searching for a viewpoint but every one I passed had a photographer already in position! The only one I found was a small dead end track to a farmhouse near the Buxton Raceway, so I captured a quick handheld image and finally admitted defeat on the sunrise.


Rising mists around Chrome Hill, known locally as the sleeping dragon, you can see why!

Although I had missed the actual sunrise I still had time to capture some images during the golden hour so I decided to head up above nearby Earl Sterndale to capture the fog in the valley below.


Looking over the fog towards Black Edge, Kinder Scout and the Great Ridge. (left to right)


A lone tree amongst the dips and rises in the fog.


Features in the landscape starting to emerge from under the waves of thick fog.

As the fog didn’t seem to be going anywhere fast, I decided to head to Mam Tor via Buxton . On the way I spotted a small copse by the road with light filtering through the drifting fog. Whilst It probably doesn’t look like much on a normal day, with conditions as incredible as these it was a truly magical place to be.


The leaves just starting to turn with some bright light penetrating through the trees.


As I waited, a thick patch of fog drifted through the trees and created some beautifully defined beams of light.


This copse is known locally as King’s Piece. I’m really glad I found it on such an amazing morning!

In the end, although my trip was almost a complete disaster and I nearly missed the whole event,  I’m really happy with the resulting photos. Thanks for looking, feel free to share with family and friends.