Badger, Badger, Badger, Mushroom, Mushroom....

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It is very easy nowadays to switch on that ipod, open that screen and enter into a virtual reality in order to ignore what is actually happening in the world. The young generation appear to only shout out against fees, or tax, and maybe war, but what happened to that period in the 60s and 70s, when we were always standing up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Brian May is doing just that, leading the petition against a drastic badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Put down your subway and read about something that matters.

Badgers carry bovine TB (bTB), which can spread to cattle. It is also spread from cow to cow, and from cow to badger. Yet only 11% of Badgers carry bTB, and there is little proof to determine just how extensively badgers are involved in the spreading of bTB. Trained marksmen will be allowed to shoot free running badgers when they stir from their setts at night, meaning up to 100,000 badgers could be shot (70%) across the two pilot zones. This could cause inhumane death upon the badger, leaving it to die in agony and with unborn young.

The government has ignored scientific research that shows the cull MIGHT reduce bTB in cattle by 16-17%, but will not be a long-term solution, and could make the situation worse by causing disturbance amongst badgers, spreading bTB quickly. A previous cull between 1996 and 2003 showed farmers, the government and the wildlife organisations that bTB was not eliminated. Lord Krebs, head of the Natural Environment Research Council talks of this as a “crazy scheme”.

Farmers in this area suffer immense loss and struggle when their cattle have to be slaughtered with bTB, and Nick Clegg has acknowledged that it is a morally difficult decision with suffering on both sides. Yet, he fails to articulate that the cull will cost farmers more than they will gain, or realise that badgers should be protected as beautiful charismatic mammals of the British countryside. After all, the badgers were there first.

Other options

Brian May says if we vaccinate our babies, why can’t we vaccinate cows? It works! There is also the option of vaccinating the badgers themselves, which has been in progress in other areas. When we know that this is a possibility, it is even more inhumane to even consider a cull. Farmers can also increase bio-security on their farms, an (ironically) much cheaper option than killing badgers.

The NFU and government are encouraging protestors not to turn nasty. Yet when all the scientific research is taken into account, it is hard to feel sympathy for the farmers. Brian May does not encourage direct action, but does encourage boycotts on milk from the pilot areas, and also even holidaying there. He will not drink milk from the day the first badger is shot.

Broader issues

To support the cull supports an inhumane, violent act. It could lead to further culls, as other animals, such as deer, carry bTB. A small amount of interference can cause long-term imbalance and suffering in the natural cycle, so why do we still think we have the right to “control” (kill) animals for our own needs? When will we learn? When it is too late.

Sarah Smout

I have a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from UEA. When I'm not writing articles or poetry, I'm writing songs or cello-ing it up in my band. I tend to have the odd glass of rose when I write for creative purposes only. I bake good cakes, too.

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