Rockstars should not become badger botherers

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Recently the Coalition Government’s badger culling program has been highlighted by three sources. The first is the recent RSPCA ‘Back off Badgers’ campaign. The second is the Coalition’s decision to go ahead with plans to cull in the next two years, and number three is the selection of high-profile faces pushing for badger protection, including one Brian May.

Under the proposed cull, around 70% of the of badger sets would be destroyed, around 11,000 badgers in each area. DEFRA (Department for Environment food and Rural Affairs) brings the case that over 25,000 cattle are killed every year due to Bovine TB, spread by badgers.

Yet the RSPCA is right when it says that “culling would be of little help in reducing the disease in the long term, and could actually make things worse in some areas” by homeless badgers setting up new homes on nearby farms. If you have heard about vaccinations, everyone agrees that a nationwide vaccination in badgers and cattle would be the long term solution; but the vaccine is expensive, untested and won’t be available for the foreseeable future. So we have to do something now, but how can we decide who has more right? The RSPCA says badgers, the NFU says their cattle.

I am not just a student with a chip on his shoulder. I am a farmer’s son and have worked my entire life on the land with cattle. About 9 years ago we lost our herd of 200 to TB. When you have raised a herd from calves of 12 months to sale and then they are destroyed for no purpose it is a hard thing to witness. I remember clearly feeling angry when I was told by my Dad that it was due to the badger sets we have on our lands.

Enter Brian May. Two weeks ago he made an appearance on The One Show, a 7pm BBC talk show. He made a short film on badger culling and indeed he made a good job, gave both sides, he was objective and funny. I thought “excellent, I think Mum should shut up, his hair is still cool!” Then Matt Baker asked what he would do, to which his response was, “if I was a farmer and I knew my cattle were going to get sick, I’d move them somewhere else like East Anglia.”

Well Brian. Why not? I tell you what chum, I’ll get onto dad tomorrow and say, “Hey, Dad. Why not just move away from the badgers? Then we won’t get TB.” To which he will say, “with a recession on, property staying at a premium but with little mobility in the market it would be impossible to make a quick enough move, and with a 100-year history with wide family relations in the area how could I possibly do that?” Sort of, I mean what he would actually say is “go away” but you get the idea that such a plan shows a complete lack of understanding from someone who has no relationship with that way of life. But hey, now he is old and has lived in a mansion for a while near the countryside he can make ill-informed judgements based on a multimillion pound fortune that very few people have. So to you Brian I say, shut up. Just because you can play the guitar and you are getting on a bit, you don’t have to go and be a philosophical superhero to fight badger crime.

There is a meeting of the RSPCA and DEFRA on the 1st of December, but what should they do? I think that vaccinations have to be the way forward, and a joint effort by the Government, badger protection lobbyists and farmers to raise funds has to pay for it, alone no one can afford it. As for the immediate future I can’t see any way forward except with, and I’m sorry for it, a small and specific cull over a period of 5 years with a promise by farmers to vaccinate not just cattle but badgers saving both in the long run. I’m sorry I can’t come up with better. But one thing I hope we can agree on that old rock stars, sometimes, need to shut up.

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