The badger: Hero or Villain?

 

Small, furry, cuddly, no direct threat to humans … hell, they even creep around at night, when we're generally not around, so it's difficult to make the argument that the badger is a major pest (literally, the villain of this piece), and even harder to make the case that they must be mercilessly killed.

And yet, with bovine TB threatening many a farm that supplies us with milk and cheese, the new Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, has picked up where his predecessor, Caroline Spelman, left off and, last Monday, issued a licence for a badger cull to go ahead over 300sq km of Gloucestershire land.

Farmers and the Government are convinced this is the way to tackle the spread of the disease. The scientific evidence is often contradictory. Professor John Krebs, who ran a badger-culling trial, said that such tactics were "ineffective" and reduced the rates of TB in cattle by only 16 per cent.

But this is not an argument about whether badgers should or should not be killed. Your correspondent – although he read, and greatly enjoyed, The Wind in the Willows as a small boy – is a city dweller and can claim no expertise in either bovine TB or small, furry omnivores.

No. The reason badgers find themselves here is because of the ridiculous ways that otherwise sensible people will behave when their opinions on the subject have become sett (sorry) in stone.

The Government goes blithely ahead with its plan, in spite of much scientific evidence, because it needs to be seen to be doing something. The opponents of the cull are even more recalcitrant.

"I feel there's a war going on, and it's one we must not lose," the pro-badger guitarist Brian May has said. Other activists are reported to be planning campaigns involving the use of fireworks, rape alarms and vuvuzelas near the homes of farmers who allow shooting to take place on their land.

Small, furry, etc, etc … the badger: guilty of rending the rural community asunder.

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