Campaigns manager Justin Kerswell reviews the political shambles that is the badger ‘cull’ whilst Juliet Gellatley and Claire Morley go out to meet some ‘walkers’ who are determined to protect these shy animals
By the time you read this, hopefully the guns will have fallen silent in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Likely, but not definite, given that the ‘culls’ have already been extended beyond their initial six weeks.
Political arrogance seems to dictate that if you say something – anything – with a straight face, people will believe you. Environment secretary Owen Paterson tried it with his comment that badgers had moved the goal posts but the claim was met with derision and ridicule.
The badger ‘culls’ were a farce – and that’s putting it mildly. Trial ‘culls’ were delayed last year because the Government said there were far more badgers in the two areas than previously thought. Finally, they began the killing and then, at the end of the six allotted weeks, claimed they had killed only a fraction of the target number because there were fewer badgers than previously thought!
Minister David Heath is rumoured to have been axed as the can carrier for an embarrassed Government. Labour’s announcement that it would not expand the trials to new areas should they come to power was welcomed but there is no commitment to ending the current trials. Hilary Benn, environment secretary under the last Labour government, was forthright in dismissing ‘culling’ as pointless.
Incredulity and derision also met the news that none of the shot badgers would be tested for TB. Even worse was the announcement that only a couple of hundred out of the intended 5,000 slaughtered badgers would be tested to see if they had been shot humanely – which was supposedly the whole purpose of these trial ‘culls’. The Government’s chief vet admitted there was no scientific framework to judge humaneness so ministers would make a subjective decision. It’s known as rubber stamping!
The stated intention was to roll out these trials across the country but costs have rocketed and policing levels have become ludicrous. Sadly, a darker cloud now looms over badgers and it’s one we have predicted for some time. Groundwork is being undertaken to reintroduce gassing in order to kill ever-greater numbers of badgers. In the past, David Cameron has condemned it as cruel so just wait for another u-turn.
Throughout these past few frustrating and sad months, Viva! has been fighting hard to focus attention on the elephant in the room – dairy consumption. It is not a side issue but at the heart of what’s happening. The bottom line is that every pint of milk and every piece of cheese drives the killing of badgers. Dairy is, of course, closely linked with environmental destruction, animal cruelty and many degenerative diseases – those that kill most people in the West. It is staggering that so much is sacrificed on the altar of the dairy industry.
We remain convinced that the only ethical response to this wanton destruction of wildlife is to go vegan. Encouragingly, many people have told us they are doing that just to help badgers. Thank you to everyone who has taken to the streets and helped spread the word. There is still time to get active for badgers: www.viva.org.uk/badgers, or phone for a free door-dropping pack on 0117 944 1000.