Inspired by Animals in 2013: Day 12 – Badgers and Cows

Inspired by Animals in 2013: Day 12 – Badgers and Cows

Who are the animals that have most inspired people in 2013 to add their voices to the growing movement for animals? Today is the last in the series as AWP celebrates the causes, campaigns and characters that have been at the forefront of helping make history. Happy 2014 everyone, and let’s hope it is a year for animals. Please share far and wide.

Day 12: ‘Badger Jean’ & the Cow

No animal has inspired more people into action this year than the badger. The Queen guitarist Brian May led the public’s challenge to the Government’s decision to cull badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset, in an attempt to reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. Over three hundred thousand people signed an online petition, forcing a debate in Parliament.

As hundreds of thousands of people including David Attenborough and Dame Helen Ghosh, the head of the National Trust, and a few enlightened MPs already knew, the scientific research into the issue showed that culling was not the way to deal with the problem, and the Government had got it wrong.

The cull went ahead anyway, culling healthy and infected badgers alike. But even after extending the cull deadline, the hired gunmen still fell way short of the minimum number of badgers that they needed to kill to be, in the Government’s eyes, effective. What makes matters worse is that, completely known to the Government, a failure to kill this massive number of badgers would lead to the threat of increasing bovine TB, through the effect of perturbation, with scared badgers leaving their regular grounds to escape the killers.

Even with the obvious failure, the Government and Minister for the Environment Owen Paterson MP still claimed the killing spree as a “success”. Its failures were famously blamed on the badgers themselves, as Paterson accused the animals of “moving the goalposts”.

If only the person ‘in charge’ of our environmental affairs could be a bit more like ‘Badger Jean’. Today Jean Thorpe is announced as receiving the MBE for her services to wildlife, having rescued animals for 51 years, including her beloved badgers, for whom she acts as expert in criminal prosecutions.

She is furious over the badger cull, as she told her local paper today: “Who would have thought two to three years ago that we would be killing badgers – a species that we have fought hard to protect – the way we are doing. The badger cull has been horrific, totally misjudged and badly thought out.”

Bizarrely, the badger remains one of DEFRA’s ‘protected animals’ despite Paterson’s hope to introduce kill zones in 40 more places over the next four years. That’s despite research showing that badger-to-cattle transmission is responsible for only around 6% of herd breakdowns.

But behind the story of the badger is the more invisible story of the cow. According to the National Farmers Union (NFU) 208,170 cows have been destroyed since January 2008 because of bTB. The NFU place the majority of the blame for this on the badgers.

However, following the end of the cull, Paterson announced a number of measures to deal with the problem of bovine TB (bTB) that clearly suggested practices in farming needed to be much better if the disease is to be controlled and eradicated. At the moment, bTB leads to the extermination of around 30,000 cows a year, at the cost of around £100m to the taxpayer. (see official Gov. figures here – PDF)

Critically, these measures announced by Paterson include a proposal from DEFRA to cut subsidies to English farmers who miss or delay herd tests.

David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “Overdue tests have been a scandal for decades. The cattle industry has stubbornly resisted sensible restrictions on cattle management since the catastrophic rise in bTB began in the early 1990s. Farmers used badgers as scapegoats while they dug their heels in against better regulation of markets and abattoirs, more frequent and improved testing, pre-movement testing and comprehensive biosecurity on farms. If the measures we have listed here had been in place when the cattle toll averaged a thousand a year it would never have risen to its present level of almost 30,000.”

Many new restrictions that came into effect last year, such as annual testing in the South West and zoning restrictions, only came into force through insistence from the EU. This is another reason why the Animal Welfare Party strongly believes in representation for animals at the European level, and why we are running for election to the EU Parliament in May 2014.

Cows have strong personalities and wills. They have favourite friends in their herds, and are calmer when socialising with those friends, and move together. When wild, cows can live to around twenty years old. For dairy cows, they are considered  ‘spent’ after their bodies are pushed to produce ever more milk after only around four years, when they are also sent to slaughter.

Calves are taken away from mothers often within hours. If they are male, they often become veal, or are raised for beef. If they are female, they are taken for dairy, where they are impregnated every nine months to ensure constant milk production (cows, like humans, only lactate to feed their young). However, a growing body of scientific evidence now suggests that, not only do humans not need to consume dairy products to stay healthy, their consumption could actually be detrimental to human health.

Animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to climate change, is a huge contributor to deforestation and detrimental changes to our environment both here and internationally.

The long-term solution to all these problems, including bovine TB is, we believe, stronger restrictions on the management of cattle and the reduction in the use of cows for dairy and beef products, and the move towards a healthy plant-based lifestyle. There will be no better solution for cows, badgers and people in the future than one that sees equal chances and opportunities for all humans, but never at the expense of nonhuman animals.

Can you make 2014 an even safer place for badgers, cows and people by becoming a visionary for animals? Support the Animal Welfare Party’s campaign in the EU Elections in May. If you live in London you can PLEDGE TO VOTE, and if you live anywhere and care about animals you can support us in our campaign to raise funds. Fundraising is crucial in our efforts to make history for animals. Make the difference now.

For more information on bovine TB visit here

Image of badger © Tatterdemalion!

This post was written by
Alex Lockwood is a writer, academic and vegan. He volunteers with AWP and manages the content on the site.

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