Badgers better hide!

So we finally have the announcement today that two pilot areas have been chosen for the badger culls, in West Gloucestershire (near Tewkesbury and the Forest of Dean) and West Somerset (including Taunton Deane). The Government has wanted to start killing badgers since it first got in, in May 2010, but have been wary of the public reaction. It was under pressure from farmers to act, but given that the scientific evidence does not support a cull and neither do the majority of voters, it has prevaricated and fudged and made statements at times when it hoped no-one was looking, edging its way towards today’s announcement. But now we know. The killing spree is on, and the Minister says 3000 badgers will die. Imagine coming home and finding three dead badgers on your doorstep. Imagine thirty. Imagine three thousand. And most of them will be healthy badgers, not carriers of TB.

I say that the culls have been given the green light. Actually it’s now up to Natural England to issue licences to farmers in the two pilot areas which will be assessed “against strict licensing criteria”. Given that the Government’s own view is that 70% of the badgers in an area will have to be killed for it to be an effective trial, they need plenty of farmers to come forward. N.B. This isn’t a return of the old method of gassing badgers. This is what’s been described as the ‘Big Society badger cull’ where farmers are allowed to roam free and shoot badgers on sight, or trap them first. A new bloodsport? There’s understandably public concern about this, and also concern about the impact on tourism in those areas. I asked Jim Paice, the Farming Minister, at Defra Qs today how local people would be consulted. He huffed and said ‘well it’s in the statement’.

Actually, all the statement says is “I understand that residents in these areas may have views on the proposal to cull badgers and, as part of its assesment, Natural England will provide the public with an opportunity to comment on the applications”. Which doesn’t mean anything really. And which is why I asked Paice to tell me more, to no avail. Incidentally, the statement also confirms that the exact boundaries of the areas will not be revealed. “Those undertaking licensed activity [shooting badgers], and those living and working with the application area, must be protected. Therefore we do not propose to make available any further information at this stage about the exact location of the pilot areas.” (I’m not sure whether “at this stage” means they’ll tell us later. I don’t think so).

So we know roughly, but not exactly, where the shooting will start. We know that it will go on for six weeks. And we know that it won’t start till after the Olympics because the Government wants to make sure plenty of police are on hand in case there are protests.

Now obviously there are some animal rights campaigners out there who might make a bit of a nuisance of themselves. I’ve been frustrated in the past at the campaign tactics adopted by some, which frankly are counter-productive and don’t do the cause much good. The Gladys Hammond case, digging up the corpse of an 82 year old woman whose family bred guinea pigs for medical research, was a particular low point. Anyone who thinks that’s the way to try to stop the badger cull is wrong. Any criminal activity, any OTT tactics, will just play straight into the hands of those who support the cull.

There is no need for any of that. Science is on our side. See the Independent Scientific Report commissioned by the Labour government, which said in pretty straightforward terms that culling wouldn’t work. I’ve blogged about that before. Respectable organisations like the RSPCA are on our side – see their campaign. And the campaigners against the sell-off of the Forest of Dean last year have given us a brilliant template of how a campaign of community resistance can work. They didn’t do anything criminal or aggresive, they tied yellow ribbons round trees and had picnics in the woods and made videos… And it worked.

The Defra team is rather accident prone. They had to do a humiliating u-turn over the forests sell-off after massive public protest, and was forced to concede a ban on wild animals in circuses after it became obvious they’d lose a parliamentary vote on it (although they’ve since broken that promise, and their rebel backbenchers are furious). A public demonstration of dismay at the killing of badgers could force them into a rethink.

So, how to start. Signing up via the RSPCA site to lobby your MP is a start – or checking out the League Against Cruel Sport (and let the Tories know you’re against a repeal of the fox hunting ban while you’re at it). There’s a protest outside the NFU conference in Birmingham next month, but I’m not sure who’s involved. I think local action is better, frankly. If you live in or near one of the affected areas start asking questions. Let your neighbours know this is happening. See whether they want a badger cull on their doorstep!

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  • Paul Bemmy Down  On January 19, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I seem to have been reading about these trials for killing badgers for decades, yet nothing seems to have been proven that it’s them causing the TB in cattle. Stopping this will not be easy. There is a strong link between the Tories and farming interests. I remember BSE when they fell over themselves to say there was no risk to human health, even though they had no idea if this was true. Quite prepared to risk our health to protect the farming industry. Let’s hope campaigning works, but I doubt there won’t be “direct” action if it doe not.

  • Quietzaple  On January 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I read the following on one’s Torygraph. The expert calls himself zeppelin. This alternative doesn’t feed the bloodlust of traditional rural Tories and might lead to more healthy badgers and cattle.

    Do mineral licks help fight TB in badgers?

    Tubereculosis is my specialist subject. The fact is, there are 700,000 badgers in the UK and the only way in which you can prevent them from being a vector for bovine tb, is to kill them all. Once this is done, bovine tb will continue in cattle. Are we prepared to see the elimination of badgers is the uk, because that is what this govenment is proposing but is not telling anyone. Contact your MP without delay if you want this futile cull prevented. Please

    There is a single molecule that is lethal to bovine tb which is called, methylglyoxal. Badgers with active tb shed viable bacteria in urine etc, and it is thought that giving them methylglyoxal in mollases , which is what they like, it will help kill the bacteria in vivo and when they deposit their waste, MG will continue to kill the bacteria on the ground. Methylglyoxal is also found in mauka honey in a much less potent natural form. I have tested MG myself on tbh cultures and it is a strong theraputic candidate.

    That’s manuka honey . I don’t take it myself but i have seen data where it almost eliminates h-pylori found in the stomachs of humans, so it’s pretty potent but may have a synergistic effect.

    • Quietzaple  On January 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      I’d asked if it was the same manuka which is advertised in very expensive honey.

    • True_Belle (@True_Belle)  On January 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm


      These ignorant landowners just love killing mammals- they are all itching to fox hunt as well. Earthing up hasn’t stopped- badgers and foxes are the most bullied of species- what of deer- don’t they transmit bovine TB either.

      Badgers are as large as a small muscley working cocker spaniel, somewhat smaller than a beagle and my word as fast as- well you know.

      Protect Brock the badger, he has had a rough time since the invention of shaving brushes and recently, the growth of industrial scale beef production.

      Countryfile hasn’t helped a jot has it?

      Mineral licks are the kindest remedy as is Manuka!

  • JM  On January 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    consider yourself lobbied, Kerry

  • TheBoilingFrog  On January 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    “…and was forced to concede a ban on wild animals in circuses after it became obvious they’d lose a parliamentary vote on it (although they’ve since broken that promise, and their rebel backbenchers are furious).”


    Perhaps they’ve ‘broken’ that promise because the welfare of circus animals comes under EU regulations and so a parliamentary vote is entirely irrelevant. A ban cannot be implemented whilst we remain members of the EU:

    Yet another MP who cannot bring themselves to admit that most of our laws are made elsewhere.

    Emily Davidson did indeed die in vain.

    • kerrymccarthy  On January 19, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      No, that’s simply not true. It was a fallacious argument used by this Government which is always quick to hide behind the EU when it wants an excuse. See for example this very recent Austrian court ruling

      Oh, and the reference to Emily Davison – please note spelling – is presumably intended to suggest that I’m being ignorant about this because I’m a stupid woman. I suggest you don’t waste your time on me then, and go off and talk to Tory MP Mark Pritchard who led the circus ban debate in the Commons and will tell you exactly the same thing. And perhaps when you’ve got a better grasp of the argument you won’t need to resort to the puerile sexism to boost your case?

      • Quietzaple  On January 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm

        Would it be impolite to refer to such EU phobes as straight banana cases?

  • Quietzaple  On January 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Notable that the ToryBBC has been running an anti badger storyline. How often do badgers cause structural damage to farmers’ property I wonder?

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