from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

badger cull

It was devastating to wake up to 'Farming Today' on Radio 4 early on Sunday morning and hear the news that the Government is going ahead with a pilot badger cull in Somerset and Gloucester, despite the fact that their own expert advisor concluded, after many years of research to compile the report on which their decision is based, that it can be at most 16% effective. 'Crazy,' is how Lord Krebs described their decision.

I can't help being reminded of the dreadful – excuse me, balls-up (the only way I can describe it) that was the Government's response to the foot and mouth crisis last decade.

The badger, last remaining relative of the bear in the UK, is iconic in the English countryside, and is widely reviled by farmers (as well as being so often a road victim; and also trapped and baited with dogs for 'sport' by small gangs of men who see this as a good use of their time and their poor dogs).

I don't wish to villify farmers – I have farming friends and my uncle farmed, plus I know how very hard it is to make a living as a farmer, especially a dairy farmer, and to lose a whole herd, perhaps built up over generations, must be heartbreaking. I also know how the supermarkets are forcing down the price of milk to farmers until the production is utterly unsustainable, and farmer after farmer is selling selling the herd. Nonetheless, I can't help feeling there is a deal of scapegoating going on here. I feel so distressed at our willingness to destroy other creatures if they get in the way of profit – or even if they don't, just in case; and, more, at the Government's willingness to back this as a sop to the farmers despite the fact that the science simply doesn't stack up.

Even vets – and I have spoken with more than one who say this – conclude that it is at least as likely that cattle pass TB to the wildlife as vice versa. But even if the latter were to be found to be true, culling is not the answer. It simply doesn't solve the problem – for it to be even 16% effective, Lord Krebs says, a guaranteed 70% of badgers would need to be shot, and that figure proven – very difficult, since most farmers will not be able to say with any certainty how many badgers are on their land. Badgers are territorial, and once a family group has been removed from an area others will soon move in to their setts; and these too will need to be culled, until finally will there be no badgers left in England?

I still don't understand why we are not vaccinating cattle (and if needs be badgers too). I imagine it's to do with economics – perhaps beef and milk will not be saleable for x weeks after vaccination?

And the real issue is around current intensive farming practices: we so need an overhaul of the way we farm (aka exploit, prey on and use) animals.

Sir David Attenborough features in a video condeming the cull. Brian May, rock star, astrophysicist and animal advocate, spoke intelligently, eloquently and without condemning farmers on behalf of the Badger Trust about the lunacy of this cull on the 'Farming Today' programme.

Shame about the young Gloucestershire farmer that Radio 4 wheeled out later in the day on the news in support of the cull: I imagine he'd been briefed not to say anything too controversial, but what he actually trotted out was not that he wished the badger cull to happen above all to protect the family herd and family income (which would be natural and understandable), but that he wanted to protect all wildlife on the farm from contamination from badgers: unfortunately when he started talking about protecting bumblebees and birds (the inference was from badger-conveyed TB) one realised the widespread depth of prejudice and ignorance about the disease: amongst animals, only cloven-hoofed animals can carry and succumb to TB, so what he was saying made no sense at all and simply fudged the issue. Come on Radio 4 – we need to hear more convincing advocates of the cull, since it is to happen, than that.

I'm not sure what hope there is now. It seems important not to give up, though.

There is more info on the Badger Trust site: and Labour have a campaign to stop the cull (I hope this link works):


  1. Glad to read this Roselle, it is indeed a total balls-up. There's a lot of campaigning going on though, and protests have yet to swell. I'm appalled at the proposed cull, and have a 'protest info' website in the making (cant work out why the darn thing wont appear when I 'publish' it at the moment!)but I feel so frustrated that even in an age when science is given such kudos as the reason why health/safety/environment/policy etc should be such, that pro-hunting, environmentally repellent politicians can over-ride that on their idealistic whim. This is the epitome of human ugliness. I know several farmers against the cull, preferring the rationale of science, preferring vaccination, preferring not to sanction pointless killing and division of communities (well there's a clue, too). One of my protests - boycotting the British dairy industry, other than one local anti-cull organic farm. Our household uses little dairy produce but from now on -Irish butter and French cheese, yoghurt as information clarifies. But this does not mitigate all that pointless, spiteful culling by arrogant ignorant ugly Tory scum. Where's Superman when you need him?

    1. Thanks very much, Lucy - let me know the link when you do manage! Much more to say, including some updates, so I'll do that later on - rushing now.


  2. What an awful affair.

    The links didn't seem to work - here they are: Badger Trust Labour campaign.

    I suppose the cull is considered an exemption under the Protection of Badgers Act. I noticed that although you generally can't block the entrances to badger setts or damage them or disturb their occupants, it's OK if you do it "for the purpose of hunting foxes with hounds."

    Arrr! (It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day...)

    1. David, thank you. As above - more to say later - but don't get me started on the illegal hunting with dogs and blocking up of fox earths (having chased the foxes out with terriers)! Have spent chunks of time physically blocking huntsmen. More anon.

  3. I'm right with you on this. If wild animals get in the way of our profits well, lets just kill them! We have to live alongside these creatures, as we do all other creatures. We have no right to kill everything that stands in the way of our 'progress', but we can use our knowledge and skills to create a way of existing with them.

    I saw a piece on Channel 4 news the other night when they had Brian May on and a farmer who has a large herd of cattle and has lost many to TB. The farmer said that vaccination is not possible at the moment because the vaccine hasn't been cleared for use. It seems to me that that's where we should be expending our energies and our money - making sure the research is completed in order that a vaccine can be made available as quickly as possible, not sending people out to shoot our precious wildlife!

    1. Thank you for this, Angie. If I'm right, they're vaccinating in Wales - and I believe also Holland. It's appeasement for the NFU. More later - there is more to say!

  4. It's awful. Can't express how angry and frustrated I feel.I've signed Brian May's e-petition on the No. 10 website (75,000 signatures at the time of writing - 100,000 needed a.s.a.p to trigger a possible debate in parliament).

    My only hope is that the anti-campaign will prove to be effective and that even if the cull goes ahead in a couple of areas initially the groundswell of outrage will be enough to stop it in its tracks. This feels like a turning point of some kind.

    Thanks for this. Look forward to those additional posts re NFU etc...

  5. mm

    Thank you for this comment. It's heartening to remember we are never alone, but are united by these things. Having read your last blog I also wish you health and wellbeing.



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