Let’s kill the little (medium sized) bugg**s! Here they are…evil aren’t they?
After all, it has been said in the UK that they are responsible for the spreading of bovine tuberculosis. That’ll be right then. Ah, but hang on a second: who said it? Well, the farmers who own the cattle. The disease is costing them money and you have to feel for the poor UK farmers, don’t you? Well, don’t you?
No. Personally, I don’t, though I am not unaware of the problems that they face and don’t entirely blame them for the current desire to slaughter one of the few remaining large mammals in my country. Firstly, I live in a rural area. There is a local auction that deals with farm sales. I have seen the farmers who turn up there to trade. I have never yet seen one arrive in a car as old, small and battered as my own. Invariably, they arrive in Mercedes, BMW, Range Rovers, Jaguars and the like. All of these cars are not basic models. They are all top of the range. I don’t see British farmers as being poor in general.
Right, so assuming farmers are not really that destitute, where does the idea come from? Well, it’s all about money, naturally: money doesn’t make the world go round, it simply slows its progress. Farmers don’t want to pay for TB inoculations, because they reduce their profit by a tiny amount and therefore their aspirations to upgrade from a Jaguar to an Aston-Martin might have to go on hold. The government won’t pay for the jabs because they know that the farmers can afford it but the politicians can’t justify the added subsidy to people who already get paid, even when their businesses are failing due to mismanagement. They can’t risk losing the votes, though and so have to do something.
So, what was the conclusion? Yes, we’ll blame badgers. We can convince people that badgers are costing them money every time that they shop. We will do ‘scientific studies’ that prove the point, so long as we smudge the findings a bit in our favour. This way, the stupid farmers are kept happy and will vote for us and we haven’t spent too much in the process. The general public are so daft, they’ll be blinded by our ‘science’ and will reluctantly agree. Perfect!
So why am I so mad about all this? Given what I said earlier about being a closet eco-warrior, you may be drawn to the conclusion that I would protest first, think second…not a bit of it. I object for several reasons, most of them being entirely scientific.
Firstly, the original study that was conducted gave figures that were not statistically conclusive with regard to the efficacy of a cull. Secondly, after the cull (it’s such a bland word to mean extermination) began in two test areas, the organisers confessed that they had only killed 850 badgers and that the original badger population had been grossly overestimated. Finally (for now), it came to my attention that they were not testing the carcasses for TB.
Let’s examine these three points.
Number one: The original data did not suggest to me that culling badgers was likely to make a big difference to the cattle TB problem. I would happily talk to the authors of the report and discuss their findings (though I strongly suspect that they won’t want to talk to me, because I’m good at maths).
Number two: Even if the original report was correct, it assumed a certain badger population that could spread the disease. Since the cull has reported that the original estimate of badger numbers is a factor of two in error, it means that the initial (already dubious) findings, have been made on totally incorrect assumptions are therefore wrong.
Number three: I was extremely concerned that the slaughtered animals were not being tested for TB. Indeed, I was amazed that their corpses were totally untested. If you are conducting any scientific experiment, you want to find out the maximum amount of information that you can from it. The fact that they are not doing so leads me to the inevitable conclusion that they fear the results of such testing. Let’s face it, if they had to announce that out of 850 animals, only 2% (for example) tested positive for the disease, it would hardly endorse their mass extinction of the species. I just can’t see how, after all the cost of catching the animals that they have to shoot them, instead of inoculating them. Also, while I’m at it, how proud do you feel, you who shoot animals in cages at your feet? Is it good? Do you sleep at night? I wouldn’t. I would have visions of innocent blood splattering my jeans as I fired at cage after cage: you’re sick.
Lastly, and I know I said that I had three problems with the cull, there is the added problem that they don’t know what they will cause by taking out a high order predator with respect to the rest of the UK’s ecosystem. Whenever man has attempted to control the environment by adding a species or removing one, it has had significant and lasting effects. Sometimes this is beneficial in the short term but not in the long term. More often than not, it has been totally disastrous. How do we know, in the UK, that badgers do not contribute to the overall well-being of crops? If we kill them, might not other farmers suddenly suffer increased losses? I have never heard any argument that suggests that the deeper reaching impact of the cull has been considered.
No, this is just plain wrong! If you try to kill badgers in Cumbria (my home county) I will come out in protest. I’ve even got a tent now and my daughter is eager to back me up, I may be only one (two, if you dare to have a go at my daughter) person, but I will not accept this.
Finally, and I do realise that some people will wrongly assume that my next statement erases the validity of my previous logical arguments (wrongly)…it is simply immoral to eradicate a species. There may even be a good financial reason behind what we all know to be true: we simply have to think about it! I know it’s emotive but take a look at the badgers below: ask yourself why it’s emotive? Perhaps it’s because deep down, we know it matters. I know I’ve used the same pic twice but it is gorgeous.
I am adding to this post to make clear that I am not personally calling all farmers stupid. The reference was intended to question the attitude of the politicians who instigated the idea of the badger cull.
Also, I’ve noticed the copyright on the badger photo, owned by John Connor Press Associates. I have now obtained their permission to use the photograph and would like to thank them for this.