Training Wounded Badger Patrols to be ready, if and when they find their first victim
Everyone is talking about it.
It could be any day now.
The harvest is now finished, the days are getting shorter and the politicians who are adamant in pushing ahead with the UK’s irrational badger cull trials which hundreds of thousands of people oppose, have sadly shown no sign of a u-turn yet.
The clock is ticking and licensed badger shooters have been hired by farmers who the National Farmers Union and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), have persuaded into believing that the solution to their Bovine TB epidemic is to exterminate badgers.
They will be preparing to get their guns out and go to Somerset, Gloucestershire or Dorset to begin the six-week badger massacre.
This is despite the fact that the cull does not have the backing of independent scientists.
On the other side, those opposed to this cull, from animal protection organisations such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in the coalition Team Badger, to the many farmers who know better and have rejected these trials, are getting ready too.
While still hoping that political and media pressure might stop the cull at the eleventh hour, some groups are already on the ground getting ready for the dreaded day the first badger victim will be shot in what most of us believe will be a regrettable and futile exercise.
One of these groups is Gloucester Against Badger Shooting, and one of the things they are already doing is patrolling the pilot cull areas with their Wounded Badger Patrols (WBP), which aim to peacefully and legally help any wounded badger found in need of assistance when the shooting begins.
I joined one of these patrols a few weeks ago, and I was impressed by the way they were run and the dedication of people from all over the country who are participating in them.
It was through my experience with the WBP that IFAW decided to help these positive initiatives with logistical and tactical support. We are lending them some equipment and also training volunteers in safe evidence gathering techniques.
Being on the ground and witnessing first-hand how the pilot cull is being conducted puts them in a very good position to gather evidence of breaches of licence conditions, inhumane shooting or any other information that may help to prevent the cull from being extended to other areas with the claim that the pilots were successful in achieving their objectives.
The first training on such techniques took place on Sunday August 18 in Stroud, and it was a success.
Many patrollers from the Gloucestershire area attended, but also from other pilot badger cull zones such as Dorset, which remains as a “back-up” area in case the pilot needs to be stopped in any of the two current designated areas.
My experience managing and training IFAW’s UK Wildlife Crime Enforcement team, which gathers evidence of illegal fox hunting in “hostile” environments in order to get successful prosecutions under the Hunting Act 2004, enabled me to give this training due to the similarities in the challenges and required techniques that both scenarios share.
Hopefully all the techniques learned in the training will not be needed because those pushing for this irrational cull may finally listen to reasoned argument and take note of the huge public opposition to the killing, but if still needed, we will be ready.
Despite all the secrecy, people will be witnessing this unnecessary slaughter not just with their eyes, but also with their cameras, GPS equipment and notebooks, because we must not allow any badgers that may fall victim to this cull to be forgotten, nor allow their deaths to be used to justify further killing.
We will continue backing Britain’s badgers, no matter what.