Looking back at animals’ historical resilience, tolerance on Badger Week

Last week’s events felt quite personal to me.

On one side, it was the week when the ‘Brexit’ spectre shook the entire nation, causing all sorts of political turmoil in the UK.

This is personal to me because I often say I am a “son of Maastricht”, as I was one of the first people who used the EU free movement right to immigrate to the UK when the EU Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992.

On the other side, it was National Badger Week, and as I love badgers (which happen to be protected in this country since 1992, coincidentally) and have been involved in the anti-badger cull campaign from the beginning, it was a busy week celebrating these amazing animals.

There had been many events all over the country, and a selfie-made mosaic photo of a badger had been created in which people’s ‘selfies’ can be combined (if you have not done so please send your selfie to the Big Badger Mosaic website). I participated in these various badger events in Stafford: ‘The Big Badger Debate’ at Oddfellows Hall on Friday, and the Badger Festival and march in the town centre on Saturday (which happened to be the 38th march against the badger cull that has been organised in England, showing the strength of feeling from people all over the country against this irrational cull).

Staffordshire may be one of the new areas where the badger cull may be rolled out this summer, so this is why these events happened there.

I gave a speech at the festival, which summarises my feelings about this eventful week.  Here is the transcript of my speech, which can be seen in the embedded video:

“My name is Jordi Casamitjana. I work for IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and as you can see and you can hear, I have a very funny name, and a very funny accent. And that is because I come from a land known as ‘elsewhere’. I’m from ‘elsewhere’ – which is quite a dangerous thing to be these days, from elsewhere, to be honest. But, to be honest, you all have an accent too  –everybody has an accent – and you all are from elsewhere as well, so this is not that different.  I am going to tell you what this means in the context of a badger celebration. Because the only ones that are not from elsewhere are these guys [pointing to a picture of two badgers]; these are the real people that live over here, the badgers. Everybody else is from elsewhere.

When we began to exist on this planet, about 250,000 years ago, we arrived here to the British Isles, and badgers were already here. They had been here for 100,000 years before we arrived. They were here already. And it got very cold – the glaciation – about 25,000 years ago, so we all left. We went to a warmer climate to the South. And many animals died here with the glaciation: the woolly mammoth, the woolly rhino, the lion – there used to be lions around here – but the badgers didn’t.  The badgers stayed; they stayed here.

And about 9,000 years ago we came back, because it was warmer. And the badgers were still here. And we started killing everybody else. Because we used to have bears, we used to have lynxes, we used to have wolves, wolverines…and the first thing we did was make wolverines disappear very quickly.

And then people from elsewhere came again:  The ‘Belgians’ (The Belgae, that’s where ‘Belgium’ comes from).  And they stayed for a while. Then the Romans came as well, and some stayed and some went.  And then the lynxes disappeared…but the badgers stayed, all the time. And then the Saxons came too; and then the Normans. And the bears disappeared…but the badgers stayed.

And then we have the Tudor times when we started persecuting the badgers: badger baiting, invented by the Tudors. But the badgers still stayed. They didn’t mind that people were coming.  They were quite sociable; they were quite tolerant. Badgers are special animals. They live in big societies, they share sometimes their dens, their ‘setts’, with other species; with foxes; with rabbits.  Sometimes they have enormous setts, and they have two or three families in the sett. This is quite peculiar. So they have these ‘values’ that other big mammals don’t have: they are very ‘tolerant’; they are very ‘resilient’. So they have these ‘badger values.’

Yet the Tudors kept killing them.

And then others came, and others came… but the badgers stayed. People came and went… but the badgers stayed.

Finally in 1979 there was a revolution. We started to protect them, to create laws (badger baiting was banned a few centuries before). And we protected the badgers. We thought that was it, finally.  We lost everyone else (we lost the wolves with the Tudors as well). The only remaining big mammal was the badger.

And a few years ago somebody else came. I do not know what to call them. Perhaps ‘Patersonians”… or “Cameronians” …people that wanted to kill them again.

But fortunately the badgers are still here, the badgers stayed, because, to be honest, these islands are not the British Isles. Many people come and go. These are not the Roman Isles; these are not the Norman Isles. These are the ‘badger Isles’. They live here…they always have been here.

And we are the ‘tenants’.  And we are, to be honest, quite bad ‘tenants’. We don’t pay the rent; we mess the whole place up. But there are only a few of us that since the beginning of time, since 250,000 years ago to now, a few of us who recognise who are the landlords of this place. Who recognise that this place belongs to the badgers. And you are one of us. We are the good tenants, the ones who know we need to respect our landlord, our badger, the landlord.

So, I came from an area far away where we have these funny accents, but the badgers accepted me, because the badger values (tolerance, respect, resilience) are the real values of this land, not anything else that came from everywhere else.

So this is why I am still here….and that is why you are still here.

Thanks very much”

Yes, all this feels very personal to me.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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