In this week's Opinion, anti-badger cull campaigner Barbara Garwood explains her frustration at a government pilot which she feels is cruel, unpopular and illegal.
I wish to draw your readers’ attention to the mass badger slaughter that is happening night after night and has now been extended in the two pilot areas for at least another three weeks.
This extension is due to not enough badgers being killed, although I feel this is against the law.
The intention is to roll the cull out from the early part of next year, to the rest of the country, so it will soon come to an area near you.
If the Government has its way it will continue for very many years to eliminate 70% of our native badger population.
I believe the Government has proved it has no clue as to the numbers of our supposedly protected native mammal, around since before the ice age, which could easily now become extinct.
All the scientific evidence is stacked up against this needless slaughter, except of course the Government’s own scientists. No surprise there.
Ask the locals in the two pilot cull areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire, who have the screams of wounded badgers ringing in their ears.
Many badgers will die agonising lingering deaths in their setts and young badgers will starve to death.
The vast majority of badgers will be perfectly healthy, no testing for TB but the evidence burnt like rubbish.
Many badgers are being killed on huge landowners’ sites, where there are no cattle but massive numbers of factory farmed pheasants.
Vaccination of badgers has now proved to cost very much less.
There are some brave people out there night after night, from all age groups and walks of life, professionals, including vets, nurses, doctors and many retired, all united in their belief of how completely immoral and pointless this cull is.
Environment SecretaryOwen Patterson has become a laughing stock with his ridiculous comments.
My MP Geoffrey Cox is all for the badger cull and wants a repeal of the hunting ban, he won’t be getting our vote.
When I posed questions to him his reply was that despite local opinion, he won’t change his mind.
If you care about animals please find out the views of your own MP. This cull is hugely unpopular throughout the country. We have experience on the ground, of the extreme anger and emotion in Bideford alone.
Farmers have stated to me that this cull will never work, it is considered a shambles. My fear is that this could signal the return of blood sports through the back door.
On Friday, November 29, it was announced the badger cull in Gloucestershire had been ended early after marksmen killed 708 badgers, about 30% of the local badger population. The target had been 70%.
But South West National Farmers Union regional board chairman Minette Batters says those who claim to speak up for wildlife should be helping to make the case for a cull to restore balance for all species.
CALL me paranoid, but I’m beginning to think farmers are becoming political pawns – “Aunt Sallies” for all and sundry to have a shy at.
So I want to make a plea for one or two other organisations, not least in the conservation arena, to speak up for what’s right rather than politically expedient.
While all we want to do is produce the wholesome British food consumers tell us they want – and, in so doing, shape and manage a beautiful, wildlife-rich landscape – we find ourselves thrust into the maelstrom of political polarisation and the activism it has spawned, particularly over issues like bovine TB and badger culling.
I’m not going to go over all the animal health and welfare arguments relating to this most vexatious issue yet again. They have been aired exhaustively. I do want to explore a wider perspective which is worrying me and a lot of other farmers in the South West, and that’s the sheer numbers of badgers and the adverse impact this is having way beyond TB. It is potentially a prickly subject for wildlife trusts who, in some instances, have campaigned vehemently against touching so much as a bristle on a badger snout.
The badger has been upstaged in the nation’s affections by the hedgehog which has taken pride of place in a national poll run by the BBC Wildlife Magazine to become Britain’s favourite species.
This accolade won applause from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, whose chief executive, Fay Vass, said: “We are thrilled, it could not have come at a better time; hedgehog numbers are in fairly sharp decline so they need all the help they can get.”
Alas, all too true, but we are illuminated further by another item on the society’s website – a study entitled The State Of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2011.
It pulls no punches about the impact of “more intensive” agriculture, not to mention the trend to fence gardens rather than hedge them and the huge death toll on the roads.
But it also has this to say: “Badgers are a natural predator of hedgehogs and hedgehogs actively avoid sites where badgers are present in high numbers.
“When the habitat provides sufficient cover and good foraging opportunities, badgers and hedgehogs can coexist, but when there is no safe refuge and the prey that the two species compete for is scarce, hedgehogs may be in serious trouble.”
According to an email sent to one of the NFU’s South West horticulture board members, the Bumble Bee Trust revealed that badgers are, along with the Wax Moth, at the top of the predatory tree in terms of their destruction of bumble bees and that “in some areas of the UK where the badger population has exploded we are concerned about what effect this will have on bumble bee populations”.
The Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management says the badger is a classic example of a population out of control which “urgently needs to be brought under control for the sake of the badgers themselves, cattle and cattle farmers, other wildlife and, not least because of the hazard from TB to man and other wild and domestic animals”.
So I am challenging the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and even some of those at Natural England, to work with us.
Stop prevaricating and lend your significant influence to achieving a worthwhile objective – a restored natural balance, including a healthy badger population in a healthy countryside where all species can thrive.
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