On Patrol By Tony Wardle
Across Gloucestershire and Somerset, caring people have made the shooters job as difficult as possible. Night after night they have walked the fields and hedgerows to prevent shooters from doing their work, encouraging badgers to seek refuge below ground. They hope their high-visibility jackets ensure that no bullets head their way.
Mostly, their efforts have been ignored by the media except for one walker, who made it into the Daily Telegraph because she exposed a local farm hand who she said had signed up to become a shooter. Viva! supporter, 66-year-old Meg Sunningdale, displayed posters with his name around the village of Withycombe, Somerset, and hung one from her front gate.
Foul play, cried the newspaper, whilst forgetting to obliterate the man’s name from their picture of the poster, thus giving it a publicity Meg could never have imagined. Meg had to fight back tears when talking about the effect the slaughter was having on her and said she was willing to go to prison for her actions. A kindly copper had a word with her and suggested it probably wasn’t a good idea. She was not to be entirely deflected:
"I would like to tell the shooter that his family will not be hurt but I will be harassing him to make sure everybody knows he is a badger killer," she said. “I think those taking part should be named and shamed. If they are prepared to shoot badgers, they should be prepared to face the consequences."
Viva!’s Juliet Gellatley and Claire Morley joined walkers in Somerset. Juliet reports.
“About 20 of us went on a long, hilly walk near Dunster. There were people from every walk of life – GPs, accountants, sales execs, shop assistants – you name it. About half were vegetarian, half not but all were aware of the connection between consuming cows’ milk and the badger massacre. Everyone was of the opinion that the badger killing is due to politics and not with stopping bovine TB.
“Heather Houlie travelled 50 miles for her first badger walk and told me: ‘I’m here because I want to stop the cull. It’s needless, politicised and flies in the face of animal welfare. Most people I meet are against the cull – the intelligent ones realising it’s intensive farming that needs to be addressed, not the decimation of wildlife. You feel like you’re doing something with kindred souls and it’s important to know you are not isolated or eccentric in caring. Wildlife has every right to remain wild and alive.
“Those trying to save the badgers are kind and welcoming and some simply sit on top of setts to defeat the shooters. It is a very welcoming atmosphere and if this slaughter continues, please consider joining a walk and if you save only one badger, it’s worth it!”
Claire Morley walked along with Andy Another who lives in the cull zone but didn’t want to give his real name. He told Claire:
“I’ve been on badger walks 20 times since the cull started because I just don’t believe there’s science behind it. It’s not the humane option and is driven solely by a few people in government. Most people I’ve spoken to don’t see the point, especially as most TB is transmitted cattle to cattle. I’ve met people from all walks of life on the walks and tonight’s was very quiet, very pleasant.”
BBC’s Spring Watch and Autumn Watch presenter, Chris Packham, was poetic in his condemnation of the cull: “It is both sad and shameful that when night falls and the setts of southern England stir, their gentle folk will be needlessly slaughtered; that in spite of science and public will, the wrath of ignorance will further bloody and bleed our countryside of its riches of life; that brutalist thugs, liars and frauds will destroy our wildlife and dishonour our nation’s reputation as conservationists and animal lovers.”