Backing our badgers with London Against the Cull

 The British government was to cull 70% of the badgers in the most TB affected areas. The story of the British badger is certainly a sad tale to tell.

Not very long ago badgers used to roam the British Isles undisturbed, being one of the biggest mammals left that managed to survive the last Ice Age. These islands could well have been called the “Badger Islands” ever since, in all fairness.

Then humans came along, with their weapons, their “games”, their “sports” and also their cattle.

Badgers have not had a breather since.

Fortunately, not everyone engaged in badger persecution, and many started campaigning towards protecting these iconic British animals.

Eventually laws were passed in the UK which banned the baiting, hunting, shooting and even ‘disturbing’ of badgers.

The British badger seemed finally protected…but we forgot about the cattle that people brought to the islands, which have been extensively farmed for generations.

Inevitably, some cattle became ill with a form of tuberculosis (Bovine TB), started to infect others, and then started to infect the wild animals around them too, including the now protected badger. But people wanted more cattle, and, irrationally, came to blame the badger for the disease of the invasive animals they had introduced.

They could blame the deer; they could blame the squirrels; they could blame the rabbits; they could blame the rats…but they blamed the badgers.

Persecution resumed, this time not coming from those who shockingly enjoy tormenting badgers for entertainment, but from farmers and Government ministers who wanted “something to be done, and done soon”. That “something” was killing badgers (culling 70% of the badgers in the most TB affected areas, to be precise).

Independent scientists said that this would not solve the problem and could make it worse. Wildlife experts reminded everyone that badgers are native wild animals that need protection, not persecution. The general public backed the badgers, and many MPs did the same, unconvinced by the Government’s interpretation of the only scientific badger cull test ever made (the Randomised Badger Cull Test), which in fact concludes that the cull will not “meaningfully” help to eradicate Bovine TB… and yet the threat to badgers’ lives continues, from this completely irrational cull.

It is irrational because alternatives have been found. Badger vaccinations have been developed, and Welsh badgers escaped killing following the wise decision of the Welsh Government which chose vaccination instead of culling.

Obstacles for the development of cattle vaccination (the ultimate solution, as this is a cattle disease, not a wildlife disease) have also been overcome, by the development of a test that could finally distinguish between infected cattle and vaccinated cattle (DIVA test), and therefore potentially lift EU restrictions on cattle vaccination once it is officially approved.

Despite this, some farmers and Government officials are insisting on killing badgers as soon as possible – with very little backing to justify such a draconian measure – and it seems that the guns are ready to shoot in two secret pilot areas; Somerset and Gloucester (and perhaps also in Dorset) where the killing may begin any time soon.

Hunting, baiting, snaring and now culling.

So not a breather at all.

But British badgers are not alone. Many people are backing them, and we at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) are backing them too.

We joined Team Badger, the biggest animal protection coalition ever created in the UK, formed by many different organisations united in absolute opposition to the irrational badger cull.

We have spoken up for the badgers, we have written to defend the badgers, we have lobbied to support the badgers, and now we will march together to back the badgers. IFAW will join the “National March Against the Badger Cull” in London on 1 June (the first day the killing could begin), organised by London Against the Cull.

We may not be able to stop the imminent pilot cull, but by joining the march, and encouraging everyone to sign the official e-petition against the cull (which could reach record numbers very soon) we can send a strong message to the Government which may make them think twice about trying to expand the killing to other areas.

We, like most independent scientists, wildlife experts, politicians and the public in the UK, will not abandon these precious mammals which share our islands.

We are backing British badgers, and we hope you will back them too.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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