Farm minister resolute about badger cull despite death threats
Farming minister David Heath has vowed not to be intimidated by opponents of the badger cull after revealing he has received death threats for his part in the controversial scheme.
The Liberal Democrat MP said that he fully accepted people's right to oppose the impending cull, but told The Independent he was "saddened by the misinformation and ignorance" exhibited by some opponents and by the tactics of intimidation they deployed.
"I do get the odd threat and it's not particularly nice," he said. "I understand people feeling strongly, but I don't understand people feeling that the right response is violence and intimidation. But I'm not going to be intimidated from doing the right thing."
Together with Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, Mr Heath has become a target for campaigners angry at the Government's plan to reduce tuberculosis in cattle partly by culling the population of badgers, which are widely blamed for spreading the disease among cows.
Mr Heath revealed the intimidation he had suffered after Mr Paterson said earlier this year that he'd had more death threats since becoming the Environment Secretary last September than in his previous role as Northern Ireland Secretary.
Mr Heath said that while the death of any animal is sad, he was puzzled by the strength of opposition to the badger cull, given it is legal to kill animals such as deer, wild boar, foxes and grey squirrels to control their numbers.
"It is an incredibly emotive subject and I understand that the badger is an iconic species. But I don't understand how we have a hierarchy of species. Why are hedgehogs not something people care about? It seems that once you have a public outcry, people identify with it and attach themselves to it," Mr Heath said.
Even the Farming minister had to admit he could see the appeal of the black and white creatures, however. "I suppose you only have to look at badgers though, they're so cute," he observed while attending an excursion to vaccinate badgers against TB - another plank in the Government's bid to reduce the disease in cattle.
A trial cull of badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire, where bovine TB is rife, is due to begin with the aim of extending it across much of the country if it is deemed to be humane, efficient and safe.
However, the trial is highly controversial, with some opponents targeting farmers, marksmen, politicians and anyone else involved in the programme on moral grounds. As a result, participants are keeping the timing, location and every other detail of the cull secret for fear of reprisal if their identities are disclosed.
The badger cull is also opposed by many scientists who claim that fleeing badgers will spread the disease more widely while the badger vacuum created by the killings could attract infected animals from elsewhere.
Almost every seabird 'will have eaten plastic by 2050' because of ocean pollution
Energy companies more reliant on 'dirty' coal to produce electricity than they were a decade ago
Pope Francis calls for a new system of global government to tackle climate change
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Big Six energy companies have 'quietly abandoned their green electricity tariffs'
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...