Debating ‘Badgers are killable as well as cute’…. OR ‘How Ms Kite, a cull supporter, got it SO wrong?’


Melissa Kite of the Guardian tries to defend the Cull – my comments alongside   

Dear Reader 

I stand by my personal conviction that the badger cull is wrong…. As a geographer and amateur naturalist, I see no evidence for it 

Henricus Peters @LearnFromNature

During the last bovine tuberculosis crisis in May 2004, without realising what was to hit me, I blithely wrote an article about the need to cull badgers. Headlined “TB or not TB” (you see what they were doing there), the piece outlined the scientific evidence, of which there was plenty, in favour of culling to stop the spread of disease in cattle, and wondered at the strangely intense political battle that was raging about it then – as it is again now.

The next decade saw my inbox clogged up with frantic emails from those I came to half-endearingly call “the badger people”, although nothing from the guitarist Brian May, which was a shame, as I’m a huge Queen fan. They quoted endless counter-facts and figures showing that a cull would not help farmers control TB in their herds at all.

I suppose I am about to get, if you will pardon another pun, even more badgered now (come on, Brian, just one letter, for the scrapbook). But I am defending the pilot cull beginning this week because an important principle is at stake. As that strange creature, the English anthropomorph, comes blinking into the light to defend badgers, I am ready and willing, in the name of man’s right to order the natural world, to try to shoot the poor thing down. Wow, she uses pure emotion!!

I don’t want to rehearse the figures on whether a cull will work or not work. I agree not to quote the scientific studies of professors Krebs and Godfray, if the badger people promise not to send me any more trials they’ve conducted in their back gardens showing uncontrolled badgers do not spread disease.

What I want to explore now is the question of why so many badger lovers are determined to stop the killing of one species while sanctioning all-out slaughter on others. The Brits, you see, are singularly guilty of hypocrisy in the matter of which animals they are prepared to kill for expediency and which they are not. Why blame innocent and beautiful creatures for the problem – the link between badgers and bovine TB is definitely NOT proven! 

While French people are honest enough to munch on a slice of horsemeat as happily as they might chew cow, and while some Asian nations will throw a dog in a stew, we prefer to order our animals into appallingly dishonest league tables of “killable” and “cute”. Yes, Asians (especially Chinese) sometimes eat dog and some Japanese can eat dolphins – just as Aussies eat kangaroo and Crocodile – but that does not make it right!   

The majority of town dwellers, and militant wildlife campaigners in particular, are at best confused, at worst in total denial on the subject of what we kill, why and how. Really? Now, Ms Kite is being patronising! 

They are prepared for cows, chickens, sheep and pigs to be bred and slaughtered behind closed doors for their pleasure (let’s face it, only those who do hard physical work need to eat meat every day, but in reality people do it because they like the taste).  Making huge sweeping generalisations about those that prefer to eat meat!

But they will not sanction the killing of an animal that has natty black and white stripes even if its killing is needed to ensure the production of the food they enjoy. Where has Ms Kite’s logic??

Once their meat is shrink-wrapped and in a shop at a price they can afford, they don’t want to think about the fact that a) it was once alive and had to be rendered un-alive, and b) it couldn’t be produced at all were not certain pests dealt with on farms. Free-range chickens? “Yes please!” Controlling the foxes who rip said chickens to pieces? “Oh dear. Let’s see. Can we not just ask the foxes not to maul the chickens?”

Aside from vegans – who at least show some consistency – most “animal lovers” salve their conscience by buying a few pints of organic milk a week without really understanding what organic farming means (it means no antibiotics, for instance, so a cow with mastitis might suffer more). Again, more generalisations!

By and large, they want farmers to produce their food quietly and without fuss, so it doesn’t upset them. And they absolutely forbid them, while raising cattle for slaughter, to harm creatures they deem cuddly. For the record, badgers are not cuddly. Badger lovers are aware of this – but this does NOT justify the cull! If you cuddled one you would find out they have a bite stronger than any dog. As a fan, I really do urge Brian May not to let his fingers near one.

The naivety of those who think them cuddly is astonishing. Again – we know!!I picked up an anti-cull leaflet the other day and it was like something a five-year-old child had produced. “A walk in the woods will never be the same again,” it said, above a picture of a mummy, daddy and two children happily kicking up fallen leaves in a forest. In front of them, in broad daylight, was a badger. Bad leaflet!

Er, hello? Have the authors not been informed that badgers come out at night? If every single badger was eradicated tomorrow, your walk in the woods would be exactly the same – which is to say, devoid of badger sightings. Or perhaps you walk after sundown? In which case, even after the planned pilot cull of 5,000 badgers, there will still be so many of them as to make absolutely no difference to the numbers you spot when you are rambling in the dark with a torch, if that is your thing.

A more pertinent leaflet would picture the English countryside devoid of cows, the result of allowing bovine TB to spread. Sadly, only when there is no more organic, farm-assured British beef in shrink-wrap will the badger people concede defeat.

• This article was amended on 29 August 2013. An earlier version said “I don’t want to rehearse the figures proving a cull will work.” The latter part of that sentence has been amended to clarify that it was not the writer’s intention to suggest that the figures incontrovertibly prove that a cull will work, or that both of the subsequently named professors (Krebs and Godfray) support a cull, but to state her intention not to get involved in discussing the evidence about the efficacy of badger culls, which is hotly disputed.


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