Thousands turn out to march for badgers
The Thursday before the National March Against the Badger Cull in London I received a message from one of our supporters telling me that she would be at the march and that she’s already made her banner. That was when I first realised how significant this march would be. To my knowledge, there’d never been an animal welfare march of this magnitude in London before and there was no precedent to let us know how big it would be. So when I looked over from IFAW’s offices on the other side of the river at lunchtime on the day and saw thousands gathering on Millbank, near Parliament, to show their opposition to the cull my spirits soared.
IFAW is completely opposed to the badger cull because it has serious animal welfare and conservation implications. We agree with independent scientific community opinion that culling badgers will not significantly reduce incidence of Bovine TB. We also believe that the solution to Bovine TB is badger vaccination, as used in Wales, together with cattle vaccination, better animal husbandry and fewer cattle movements. The Government should concentrate its efforts on using the former and expediting the bureaucratic process to validate the latter.
As the march showed, public opinion in the UK is against the badger cull. On top of that the majority of independent scientists, wildlife experts, animal protection and conservation organisations, oppose it too.
A cross-section of British society opposes the cull, and the march was a perfect illustration of this. We were all there to show our support for badgers, in the hope that the Government will wake up and listen.
Although it’s looking unlikely that the killing will begin on June 1, the march was on the right day because it was the first day that badgers could be killed - a very sad day for British wildlife. It was also a sad day for cattle and the farming industry, which will pay for this cull in the misguided belief that it will solve the problem of Bovine TB.
IFAW is worried about the Government’s stance on this issue. They blame badgers for what is essentially a farming problem, and ignore independent scientific advice which warns against culling and recommends better animal husbandry and a significant reduction in the transportation of cattle around the country.
Recent comments by the Government make it seem as though they have already made their minds up and that they plan to extend the cull to more areas no matter what the results of the trial show. If so, this could result in up to 100,000 badgers being killed.
At the end of the day it seems to me that the cull is irrational and disproportionate - not only will it cause unnecessary suffering to badgers and threaten wild populations with extinction, but it will not solve the problem of Bovine TB.
Looking back at the day of the march, several images come to mind. I won’t forget the badger dancers at the head of the march who set such a lovely tone, I won’t forget the thousands who turned out to demonstrate against the cull and I won’t forget standing on the steps of 10 Downing Street with Brian May as we handed in a letter to the Prime Minister that drew his attention to the 235,000 (and still climbing) signatures on the No 10 website calling for the cull to be stopped. All in all, a very memorable day.
The campaign continues - please sign the e-petition opposing the cull if you have not already done so and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
Sadly, the parliamentary vote on the badger cull did not go our way.* We are disappointed by this result though not hugely surprised given that MPs were not given the freedom to vote according to conscience.
The numbers do not accurately reflect the huge amount of support we have received from many politicians who agree with us that the decision to cull badgers is a cruel and senseless one.
We will continue to oppose the needless slaughter of badgers and urge the Government to heed the advice of scientists and wildlife experts and reverse this decision now.
We are heartened to see that the e-petition against the badger cull has already attracted more than 245,000 signatures, all before the first badger has been killed. If the cull does go ahead, public outcry will be even greater.
The thousands of people from all sections of society who turned out to march through London in opposition to the cull last weekend indicate the strength of public feeling on this issue and this sends a clear message to Government that we want to see our wildlife protected.
Voting result -
* That this House believes the badger cull should not go ahead: