Getting ready for this year’s badger cull rollout

One of the badger protectors checking a map as part of an exercise during Wounded Badger Patrol training in May 2016 by GABSThe shooters are coming.

We still do not know exactly where, but they may be heading to an area near you.

They began coming to Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2013 when they shot 1,861 badgers. They returned to the same areas in 2014 when they shot 615 more. In 2015, Dorset was added to the kill zones and they shot 1,467 more. And now, this summer, they are coming back en masse, as reliable intelligence suggests that the infamous UK Government badger cull is going to be rolled out across up to six new areas this year, in addition to existing cull zones.

So, if you live in Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Herefordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire or Cheshire, you may become a first-hand witness to this atrocity.

There is no point in me writing again about how unscientific, unpopular, inhumane, expensive, unnecessary, irrational, dangerous, inefficient, misguided and counter-productive this badger cull is, as it has been said many times already, including by experts that know about this issue intimately.

But what I can write about is my certainty that the badgers that will be targeted in a few months’ time will not die alone without sympathetic humans who oppose this cruel cull being close by.

I know this because year after year many people have left the comfort of their homes to join those in the field who, during the cull, have patrolled the countryside bearing witness to the massacre, and trying to help its victims as much as they can. It happened in the three current badger cull zones, and it will happen in all the new ones too.

I can say this with absolute certainty because last weekend I attended a training event run by one of the many groups which do precisely that.

From the very beginning, Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) have been organising Wounded Badger Patrols (WBP). They are made up of groups of people of all ages and from all walks of life who peacefully and law-abidingly walk along public paths during the cull.

They are there to help injured badgers who may have fallen victim to the shooters (but not died straight away) and to document any wrongdoing they may witness. When the patrols follow up with authorities, the shooters could lose their culling licence. Enough infractions help the effort to end the cull in the future.

I was very pleased to join one of these patrols in Gloucestershire in 2013, and another one in Somerset in 2014 organised by Somerset Badger Patrol.

I know how committed these badger protectors are, and how important their work is, so I joined one of their excellent training exercises.

At this training, I made a presentation on evidence gathering techniques. I know this subject well, as I manage IFAW’s Enforcement Team, and I have trained badger protectors on this in previous years.

There were two very good things about this particular training event that I did not expect:

  1. Police participated. There were officers from Avon and Somerset Police, Gloucestershire Police and West Mercia Police and they seemed quite impressed
  2. Among the high attendance were representatives from most of the potential new areas, who can now go back home with enough knowledge to start their own Wounded Badger Patrols if they find themselves to be in a new cull zone very soon. However, they need help, because learning how to carry out the patrols safely and efficiently would be a waste of time if they do not manage to persuade enough other people to join their patrols in the field when the culls begin at the end of the summer.

This is where you and I can help. We need to get the word out, and let everyone know about the patrols, show them that everyone can participate in them no matter their age and knowledge (day, night, walking, or driving), show that they are well-organised and that the police have committed themselves to ensure they can operate in safety, and, if we can, join them even if it is only for a day or two.

During the first years of the cull this ‘recruiting’ was done via word of mouth. Now we have Badger Action Network (BAN), a new group composed of experts from WBP from different areas who joined forces to help other people create similar groups, and to help members of the public who want to join a patrol but do not know how to go about it.

Their website works as a hub for all England’s WBPs and is full of resources you can download.

I have seen this ‘group of private individuals’ in action and I can certainly say I never cease to be impressed by their dedication and work. Regular people that want to help badgers and learnt how to do it as they went along.

Now that their knowledge and experience can be fully utilised, we need to support them as they are the ‘last line of defence’ against this irrational cull which is being irresponsibly unleashed on the countryside by a few short-sighted politicians and landowners, against common sense and expert opinion.

Yes, in a few months the shooters may be coming to an area near you, but I hope the friends of the badgers will stand together and not abandon them to their fate.

Together, we have been backing the badgers in the Courts, in Parliament, in the streets and at home.

We all need to stand alongside them in the fields.

--JC

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