Here in the UK the government are planning the mass killing of a resident mammal. The badger. Now, if someone was talking about killing a third of all African elephants, a third of the wild lions, lemurs or anything else that iconic, the whole world would be up in arms. We don’t have much in the way of big, majestic wildlife here in the UK. This is because we already killed off the wolves, bears and giant, hairy cows.
There can be a tendency in nature conservation to support the cute, the memorable and the iconic. Getting people to save tigers is always going to be easier than trying to interest them in some ugly bug.
Badgers are lovely. They are very communal, living in big, extended families. Nocturnal, they roam around at night, mostly rooting up earthworms. They eat most things though, they are slow moving, wide arsed opportunists and they adore peanuts. Seeing their cute, stripy faces appear out of the darkness is a joy. Watching them play and feed together is delightful. I’ll say it again: Badgers are lovely.
However, badgers suffer from tuberculosis, and are probably implicated in giving TB to cows. I‘m not convinced it’s just the badgers, I think a closer look at the frequency with which we move livestock about in the UK needs considering. But, badgers have long borne the brunt of the blame. For all of my life, farmers have been trying to get badgers killed. My grandmother used to go out to try and prevent the then popular solution of filling in most of the holes into the set, and gassing the trapped badgers.
If we were talking about a really careful, well organised system of putting to sleep those badgers who are suffering from TB, I could see the point. We aren’t. We’re talking shooting badgers wherever there is a lot of TB, on the assumption that this will help. If the science said that yes, a badger cull would be bound to reduce TB in cows, and overall reduce animal suffering, then that might be tolerable. The science says it probably won’t help, and there’s evidence it could make things worse. So that’s a lose for the badgers, the cows and the farmers. This is madness.
The solution is to vaccinate badgers. If we eradicate TB in the badger population, they can’t spread it, the cows are fine. There are vaccines available, there are test studies. It will take time and cost money, but the key thing is, it stands a fighting chance of working. It will work for the badgers, who get to carry on their badger business, neither being shot at, nor getting a horrible disease. If the badgers really are causing the problem, it will work for the cows, and if it doesn’t, it might get us closer to nailing the sources of the problem. Solving the problem is what the farmers need here. Actions that do not solve the problem, do not help the farming community. Gassing the badgers did not solve the TB problem when I was a child. Shooting them now will not solve it either.
Please help. Go to www.teambadger.org/ to see where you can get involved. Make noise. This shameful act should not go ignored and uncommented on. If we were talking about lions, there would be international outrage. I move that badgers are just as alive, just as lovely and just as important as any other, more iconic creature out there. Let’s not send a message to the world that government sponsored wildlife massacres are ok.