Wednesday, 5 June 2013

In support of Badgers

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Last Saturday wildlife supporters from across Britain descended on central London to show their disapproval for the coalition government's proposed trial cull of Badgers. It was important to be there, and I took along my daughter Ava, also a big wildlife fan, for her first-ever demo. The cull, aimed at combating bovine TB, won't succeed in its aim for several reasons, not least because it will simply be impossible to kill every single infected Badger - while at the same time slaughtering tens of thousands of healthy animals. Ultimately, vaccination of cattle has to happen, and the latest estimates indicate it will cost less than the cull.

The march was a success, with an estimated 4,000-5,000 people taking part (where did the curiously biased BBC, who seemed to have banned all mention of the cull on Springwatch, get its figure of "several hundred" from?). Brian May inspired the crowd with an impassioned speech about the problem of bovine TB and the way to deal with it, which is definitely not by destroying a significant percentage of the Badger population - a shame that we have the intellectually challenged Owen Paterson MP as Secretary of State at DEFRA, and not the highly astute Queen guitarist. Wildlife legend Virgina McKenna and others also spoke brilliantly.

Dr Brian May at Badger March: articulate, impassioned and well informed, his reasoning on the cull was flawless.
Ava and I walked most of the route with Bill Oddie, who I hadn't seen in a while, but aside from Bill, Debbie Jay and Charlie Moores, who I missed while he was busy recording vox pops from participants, most birders I know were conspicuous by their absence. It's a shame more don't take the opportunity to take part in these rare occasions when a show of strength in support of wildlife is needed - it's great to be active and sound off in the Twittersphere, but we also need feet on the streets when the occasion demands it.

Ultimately, hope was pinned on the Opposition motion against the cull, which was debated in Parliament today. Labour did their best, as did nine Lib-Dem and six Tory rebel MPs, but the motion was defeated by 299 votes to 250. My local Lib-Dem MP, Lynne Featherstone, slavishly followed the coalition line and sent me a patheticly lame response when I emailed asking for her support before the vote. After the Lib-Dem fiasco over tuition fees at the beginning of this Parliament I was perhaps hoping for too much, and so it proved, but it really galls me when politicians elected to represent us can't grasp or act on the core issues.

Eurasian Badger (Meles meles): facing pointless slaughter on a large scale in parts of Britain. Photo © BadgerHero
Here is more evidence of that. As the Guardian's George Monbiot recently revealed, Prof John Bourne, who conducted the government-funded study which showed that badger killing is a waste of time and money, recalled that a senior politican said to him: "Fine, John, we accept your science, but we have to offer farmers a carrot. And the only carrot we can possibly give them is culling badgers." That kind of mangled reasoning by those who run the country, and do-as-they're-told acolyte MPs who help ensure it becomes law, is bad news on all fronts, not just for wildlife.

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