Britain’s experimental badger cull has been a surprising success. Not that you’d guess this from any of the headlines in the papers.
They’re all focusing on the official figures showing that for each 1,879 badgers shot by marksmen last year it cost the taxpayer a whopping £3,000. (Or, by the Guardian’s estimates, once you take into account the full policing costs, £5,200 per badger).
This does indeed sound an awful lot of money to have spent on a cull which has been widely derided by Britain’s vocal and influential animal rights lobby as a complete flop. But we should take these people’s claims with a huge pinch of salt. They do, after all, have a mightily strong vested interest in persuading the public that badger culls are cruel, unnecessary and unaffordable. And to judge, for example, by the reader comments below this Daily Mail report, the propaganda is working.
So let’s just remind ourselves of the facts, shall we?
1. Mr Brock, handsome, stripey-faced fellow though he is, can be a highly destructive pest. He predates on everything from bumblebees and groundnesting birds to hedgehogs. He undermines foundations, damages fencing, destroys young woodland and creates setts which are dangerous for both livestock and riders. Worse, he is a known carrier of bovine TB and is currently responsible for the fact that every year in Britain more than 30,000 cattle have to be slaughtered, at cost to the dairy industry of at least £50 million a year.
2. The badger has no natural predators, only man and the Ford Mondeo. Up until the 1970s, badger populations were kept in check by organised hunts, by farmers with shotguns (or gas), by badger-baiters. But in 1973, the Badger Protection Act was brought in – largely as a well-meaning attempt to put an end to the barbarous practice of badger-baiting – making it illegal to kill badgers without a licence. Legislation was further tightened with a 1992 amendment, making the badger one of Britain’s most heavily protected species – despite the fact that its populations have never been remotely threatened or endangered.
3. On the contrary, as a result of the legislation, British badger populations have exploded beyond their eco-system’s natural carrying capacity. That is, there are now more badgers than the British countryside can sustain, which has had several unfortunate knock-on effects: starving, unhealthy, overcrowded populations more prone to disease; a collapse in hedgehog populations; and, of course, a massive increase in bovine TB (which was more or less non-existent before the badger protection laws were introduced). All over Britain, animals are suffering and dying in great agony – and almost entirely because of the campaigning of ignorant bunny huggers like Queen’s Brian May.
4. Why is it the bunny huggers’ fault? Because they’re the ones who turned those well-meaning protection laws (designed, remember, to stop badger-baiting) into disastrous, full-on prohibition. Worst culprits were the green activists in the Tony Blair era who had infiltrated the-then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) – and who of course remain well entrenched today in both the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). They’re the ones who prevented the law from working as it was intended to work by letting it be known that those farmers who tried applying to get licences to cull badgers on their land wouldn’t get their licences. This is why the badger population exploded, why the incidence of bovine TB exploded and why we’re in the mess we are today.
5. The reason the cull has been so expensive is because animal rights activists within government have placed such stringent restrictions on it – for example, by insisting badgers be killed by licensed marksmen rather than with more effective gas – that it has been impossible to do cheaply. The process has further been disrupted by a hardcore of activists who have gone on nightly patrols in the cull regions to try to prevent the marksmen operating safely and effectively. On occasion they have done so with the complicity of sympathetic police departments.
6. Despite all this, even though the cull has been conducted on a limited scale in small areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset, there is already anecdotal evidence to suggest that the incidence of bovine TB has already fallen in the trial areas.
7. But the mainstream media has preferred to focus on the headline story of the shocking cost of the cull so far. The cost – £6.3 million and counting – has indeed been shocking. (Though it is a drop in the ocean when set against the costs to the British dairy industry caused by bovine TB). But it’s only so expensive because that is the way that the Green Blob has deliberately engineered it with the intention of making the process unpopular and untenable.
8. To appreciate just how misguided UK policy is it need only be compared with that of other countries. Last year in uber-green Germany, 66,000 badgers were culled. In France, badgers are regularly culled by farmers. In the US, no chances are taken when it comes to dealing with a communicable disease like TB which in Britain before the war was killing 2,500 humans a year. As the US chief vet told former DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson (the man who instituted the latest badger cull) ten years ago, “We do not tolerate zoonotic diseases.”
9. If you care about wildlife, you care about farmers, and you care about badgers the very last thing you should be doing is allying yourself with the likes of people like Brian May. You should be supporting the conservationists who understand the issues and are not blinded by sentiment and by anthropomorphised fantasy versions of what badgers are like based on mistaking books like Wind In The Willows for non-fiction.
10. None of this fact stuff, of course, is going to deter some readers from chipping in their tuppenny ha’penny’s worth by declaring that – despite all the above – they’re still opposed to the killing of badgers. Yes, we know. But the fact that you think badgers are charming little fellows with marvellous stripey faces and delightful wobbling bottoms does not constitute a rational argument.