ENVIRONMENTALISTS and animal lovers will be aware that the Government is intent on culling around 70% of Badgers in Britain in an attempt to eradicate TB. The effectiveness of culling is disputed – so much so that well over 200,000 people have signed a petition opposing the cull. And at the beginning of this month, around 2,000 people demonstrated – in Central London – against the cull. The following article is by an English Green supporter who attended the demo.
ON SATURDAY June 1st, the day the pilot cull licences came into effect, a group of over 2,000 people, mostly dressed in black and white, gathered outside the Tate Gallery in London to join a protest rally against the Government’s planned Badger Cull. Many carried banners, some were dressed as badgers, and some wore the badger face-masks that were being given out.
Prior to the planned march, a petition signed by 234,000 people was delivered to Downing Street by a group of celebrities and representatives from animal welfare groups. Before the march formed up speeches were heard from various animal welfare groups including Animal Aid, London Against the Cull, and the Hunt Saboteurs Association. They were followed by celebrity speakers including the actress Virginia McKenna, a long term campaigner from the Born Free foundation, and the rock guitarist Brian May, who has been a leading figure in the campaign against the cull since setting up the group Save Me!, now part of the wider coalition of groups campaigning under the collective banner of Team Badger.
Brian spoke passionately about the latest scientific evidence that shows that culling of wildlife has never eradicated TB in any country in the world. He also argued that the revised costs of policing the cull now prove culling will be more costly than the alternative of a badger vaccination programme as is currently being used in Wales. He said “[A]t the end of all this misery, paid for by farmers, while the taxpayer continues to pay for compensation when breakdowns occur, TB will still be there. Farmers will still be suffering, cows will still be suffering, and the badger will be a pitiful remnant, their social structure forever destroyed, a tragic ghost of a species that was native in Britain long before we were”. His speech won loud applause from the huge crowd and can be read in full on his website www.brianmay.com
Following the speeches the march set off for Westminster, with a group of dancers dressed as badgers setting the pace and loudspeakers leading the many chants and meeting with support from passersby. Unfortunately half way round the route the police came to the front of the march and advised stewards that they would be rerouting us to avoid a clash with other protests in the vicinity of Westminster. This resulted in the march being diverted to some back streets and our route cut short. Most people accepted this and headed to St James Park for a planned picnic, but a few decided on a detour to Westminster where a straw effigy of Owen Paterson the Environment Minister was burned. The group protested for a while then left, this was otherwise a trouble free protest that was well supported and showed just how much public opposition there is to this cull.
So what now? The Badger Trust continues to look at all aspects of the cull for a “realistic chance of successful legal action” to halt it in its tracks, whilst DEFRA looks to increase the cull zone, Owen Paterson told Farmers Weekly that “[I]f the two pilot culls are declared efficient, safe and humane, we will definitely be extending them. We will roll out ten new cull zones next year and ten more in each of the next three years”. He admits a realistic reduction in TB will require 20-25 years of hard culling. Some now question if the badger might end up extinct under such a long term threat. The evidence now suggests culling will cost more than a badger vaccine programme, it will take longer to prove effective, and offer very limited reductions in TB in cattle herds, compared with better bio security. The scientific, economic and moral arguments no longer support a cull, yet the Government are still pushing ahead with it, so as the first shots are due any day now, the battle for Old Brock moves from the well humoured protest march into the heart of the cull zones – the killing fields!
• THE FOLLOWING should be read alongside this article: