By Justin Kerswell, Viva! campaigns manager
The guns have fallen silent over Gloucestershire and Somerset. For now, badgers can slumber peacefully throughout the winter months, but what is to come next spring? We shouldn’t take the ending of the ‘cull’ earlier than intended as a sign of complacency or an admission of defeat by the Government. If anything, the resolve to continue – and expand – the killing fields next year has taken on a new zeal.
Understandably, over the past year there has been a lot of talk of blame. Just last week I had the pleasure of attending an anti-‘cull’ rally in Bristol. It was fantastic to be surrounded by so many people standing together for British wildlife. There was a lot of talk about who was responsible. Pot shots were taken – and with good reason – against politicians, the NFU and some farmers. Yet next to nothing was said about how consumers have also played an unwitting, yet vital, role as well.
There is an elephant in the room – and that elephant is the dairy industry. Without it the badger ‘cull’ would have never started in the first place. Without it the first badger would have never contracted bovine TB. It may sound simplistic, but it is the truth. It is not a side issue (as some try to make out), it is the issue. The bottom line is that those that choose to continue to consume dairy products (and beef products for that matter) are part of the problem. It is their custom that puts a value on the dairy industry – and it is that value that will help propel the killing of badgers on an even greater scale next year.
It is no good saying that some farmers are against the ‘cull’. Where were those farmers when we were out marching? The dairy industry is, as a whole, rotten to the core.
One of the greatest ironies of the media’s reporting of the badger ‘cull’ is those images of farmers standing in front of their dairy herds bemoaning the loss of animals that they had to send to slaughter because of TB infection. It is heart-breaking they say. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were running sanctuaries and not farms. Make no mistake; they are tears for profits not friends. Dairy cows are only kept alive as long as they are profitable.
A sense of perspective is important. The badger ‘cull’ in Gloucestershire was, after its extension, responsible for 921 badger deaths. During that same time period 773,500 cows were sent to slaughter in Britain for their meat; some of them worn out dairy cows that were killed as soon as their milk productivity dropped. Many of those were suffering from health issues, such as lameness, mastitis and infertility exacerbated by modern farming methods (and in numbers that dwarf those killed because of TB). Also, nearly 30,000 of their baby males were shot in the head at a few days old because they were the wrong sex to produce milk and too skinny for beef. Any badger killed is a tragedy, but why do we place more value on their lives than we do on cows and other animals?
Thankfully many people have made the connection with what has been happening in the English countryside and the on-going ‘war on wildlife’. They have decided that they cannot continue consuming dairy and beef whilst opposing the killing of badgers.
Politicians are already talking about where to roll out the ‘cull’ next year. Given the absolute failure of free shooting and even cage-trapping it seems highly likely that they will attempt to reintroduce gassing of badgers. It has always been the preferred option of both many farmers and politicians. It will be infinitely cheaper and easier to administer. All that stands in the way is a change of the law. Who really thinks that the politicians rabidly and single-mindedly pushing for an expansion of the ‘cull’ will see that as an obstacle?
So, when the gassing trucks arrive at the setts next year, what will be in your tea?
Do not support the very industry that is driving the needless slaughter of badgers with your custom. The only ethical choice is to go vegan.