As of midday on Monday the 20th of October the second year of trial badger culls is over. With the lack of an independent panel overseeing this years cull its hard to find out how much of a failure it really was. However the results so far are pretty damning, in Gloucester the number of badgers killed was less than half the minimum target of 615 and nowhere near the maximum of 1,091. In Somerset the number killed was just inside the 315-785 range, a range that was set deliberately low.
Thirteen hundred badgers in Gloucester and Somerset that would have been dead in a ‘successful’ cull are currently alive and well. The reason for this is not hard to work out. Every single night people from across the west country (often accompanied by friends from further afield) were out in the cull zones. Bristol AFed members were out each week, spending our nights in the dark fields and forests of the zones in all weathers, mag lights and radios in hand. We accompanied seasoned animal rights activists, some of them were out ’til the early hours nearly every single night despite (somehow) holding down full time jobs!
Groups of families wielding hi-vis jackets, solo cull-sabs in the hills with infrared scopes, teams of animal rights activists in ‘rapid response cars’, fundraisers across the UK, local informants and mysterious pixies causing badger traps to disappear. All were essential, and all were incredibly well organised. Despite huge expense, state of the art equipment, lowered targets, support from land owners and back up from a massive number of police shipped into the area, the shooters stood little chance against this grass-roots mobilisation.
The idea that the cull was a genuine attempt to stop cows from catching Bovine TB was ridiculous to anyone who stepped into the cull zones. Almost all the areas where badgers were being killed didn’t have any cows in them in the first place. Even the government, who are willing to use any scrap of scientifically ridiculed information to support their claims aren’t suggesting that corn fields catch TB (at least at the time we are writing this).
There are plenty of more sinister reasons the landed gentry, political establishment and state agencies may be backing the deeply unpopular cull. One is simply to divert attention away from the actual cause of the spread of bovine TB, bad farming practice, much of it a result of the pursuit of profit or in response to impossible supermarket demands. Confronting this would not only cut into the profits of the rich, it would mean those responsible accepting that they have made mistakes, and probably giving up their cushy jobs in government departments. Then there’s the fact some of the land the rich folks own would be ripe for profitable development, were it not for the pesky legally protected badgers living on it. One animal rights activist we headed to the cull zone with had a much simpler theory ‘what with badger culls, hare killing, bird traps and fox hunts, I’m starting to think these rich aristocracy types just really enjoy killing everything’.
Whilst a senior LibDem has said a second year of failed trials will mean the cull is not rolled out nationally, and Labour have promised to scrap it either way, we trust politicians about as far as a badger can throw them. We’ll be ready with the saboteurs, protesters, patrols and other activists should they call open season on badgers again. In the mean time…