The Badger Cull – An AWP Supporter Writes

The Badger Cull – An AWP Supporter Writes

badgerOver the past few years those of us concerned for animal welfare have listened with confusion and exacerbation  to the scientific arguments put forward by the government to support their plan to eradicate hundreds of thousands of badgers from the British countryside. Underlying the arguments of those who wish to shoot the badgers is the simple arithmetic of profit and loss; an equation that claims to weigh the death of badgers against the prolonged life of cows destined for the slaughter house.

It has been with a sense of deep sadness that we have felt compelled to enter this debate with our own barrage of facts and figures rather than presenting basic principles of humanity as evidence enough to stop this cull from taking place.

It is a cliché to describe the British as a nation of animal lovers. However it does not take an extensive examination of our culture to realise the truth of the British disposition: our adoration of pets; record numbers of vegetarians; and a general regard for animal welfare that has seen off fox hunting and continues to campaign against the movement of live animals is evidence enough. Our love of animals is a part of our national identity; from dog shows to bird watching, the RSPCA to ‘Springwatch’, we care deeply for our fellow inhabitants of these verdant isles.

The Badger’s Place in our Psyche

Badgers hold a special place in our psyche. Despite their numbers few of us have ever seen a badger and yet we have lived alongside these creatures for thousands of years. The badger lives somewhere between our waking life and our dreams. It is an almost mythical creature that we can reach out and ‘touch’ any time we want to. A creature of the night that the majority of us are happy to engage with through the imagination of art, literature and poetry. In recent years television has brought them directly into our homes; their two-tone beauty, infamous short-sightedness and comical shambling gait are part of our culture and we cherish them accordingly.

As such we know what we stand to lose if the government has its way. To risk the extinction of this creature, as we neglectfully did with the wolf and the bear, or to decimate their numbers making a sighting even rarer than it is today would be a tragedy, and an indictment of the values and priorities of our species in the twenty first century.

The image of the badger being presented by the government, and their natural constituency of middle class farmers and landed aristocracy, is that of a pest that needs to be eradicated but that image is a million miles from the sensitivities of the majority of the British people. That the government is aware of this and still prepared to defy the public in order to pander to those who have bought influence within the Conservative Party makes a travesty of the democratic process.

The views of the majority are dismissed as uninformed or patronised as sentimental. Whilst recognising that farmers who live close to land have a huge contribution to make in determining how the countryside is managed, this contribution must take into account the values of respect and compassion that we hold so dear as a nation; profit can not be the only determining factor in how we interact with the natural world.

Who is to blame?

In saying this I am not trying to apportion all the blame for this barbarous slaughter solely on to those who hope to profit from it. Let us be honest about this. The reason that there are men roaming the British countryside tonight armed with high powered rifles endeavouring to stay down wind of the near blind badgers is because of the huge desire for meat and dairy products in the towns and cities of Britain.

While some may accuse us of sentimentality towards the countryside a charge of naivety and denial may well be more appropriate. Nature may be ‘red with tooth and claw’ but it is man who is leaving the countryside literally dripping with blood. From the estimated  36 million pheasants shot each year for sport, to the 3 million cows, 13 million pigs, 19 million sheep and lambs, and a staggering 800 million chickens and turkeys slaughtered annually down secluded country lanes, we are all to a  greater or lesser extent, responsible for this cull.

As we have become more divorced from the land, and especially from food production, it has become easy to forget just how much violence is associated with the farming of animals. We buy our rump steaks from the supermarket and burgers from fast food restaurants with no thought of the forced fattening processes, the permanent artificial pregnancies, the mass slaughter of bulls at birth, and the abattoir conveyor belts that kill 100,000 animals per hour in the UK alone.

Are there more beautiful and peaceful creatures anywhere in the world than the cows that inquisitively follow our movements through the country pathways of Britain? Or more intelligent animals, even amongst our pets, than the millions of pigs blissfully unaware of their fate as they are fattened beyond the hedgerows? It is not our lack of humanity which condemns these animals to the slaughter house, rather, it is our indifference.

It takes something like the badger cull to remind us of what we inherently feel to be wrong with our exploitation of the natural world and moreover to see our own role in the wider context.  This wider context is political, ecological and perhaps even spiritual, and relates to the killing of millions of farm animals every year for our own personal satisfaction.

Looking beyond killing

The cull challenges us to look beyond the emotive killing of defenceless wild animals and to recognise its roots in the systematic extermination of defenceless farm animals. As such it offers us the opportunity to confront the arrogance of authority, to actively oppose ecological destruction and to acknowledge our individual humanity.

We are what we eat; in health and in conscience. As enlightened individuals in an enlightened nation, let us deepen our humanity even further and become an example to a world gone crazy in its lust for profit and elevation of greed above life and compassion. It has never been easier to eat vegetarian and vegan food. Every supermarket in the country dedicates whole sections to it, almost every restaurant offers one or more vegetarian option and, for those with a creative bent in the kitchen, a world of meat free culinary menus are available at the turn of a page or the click of a mouse.

That the pilot cull has gone ahead and may even continue is extremely distressing, however, the battle to save the badger is not over yet. The organisation of mass petitions and active opposition to the cull are testament to how deeply the majority of people feel about the slaughter. In a struggle in which so many of us feel impotent in the face of government and powerful vested interest, there lies a great opportunity to renew our commitment to our fellow travellers through life. The opportunity is to resolve to make the changes to our diet that will have a profound effect upon the lives of millions of animals – and safeguard the future of Britain’s wildlife for generations to come.

Image: badger (creative commons) by Tatterdemalion!

This post was written by
"The Animal Welfare Party puts animal protection high on the political agenda. We offer policies than benefit people, animals and the environment. If you think it's time animals had dedicated representatives in the EU Parliament, please support us today". Vanessa Hudson, Leader, Animal Welfare Party

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *