Team Badger after a long night’s patrolling
Gloucestershire Vegan Group members are currently united in a sense of outrage over the pilot cull of badgers that is happening locally.
Most vegans I know choose not to consume products of animal origin because of a deeply-held ethical belief that it is wrong to cause pain, death or suffering to other beings, simply for culinary gratification. It is therefore doubly distressing for us that gun-toting farmers, are blasting one animal – the badger – to near-extinction so that they can continue to perpetuate the suffering of another – dairy cows.
The pilot cull itself is a shambolic affair. It’s aim is supposedly to establish the humaneness of free-shooting badgers. The badgers shot in Gloucestershire will not even be tested to see if they are TB positive. Aside from the obvious irony of assessing how “humane” shooting a sentient being is, (especially in the dark using untrained marksmen) a leaked letter from the Government’s own Chief Vet Nigel Gibbons to the Humane Society International revealed that there is “no definitive criteria” for measuring how humane the cull is.
The Government hopes to roll the cull out nationally, once this pilot cull has taken place, despite there being some very good alternatives to culling Badgers. The Wildlife Trusts, and other pro-badger organisations are advocating badger vaccination, something that is currently underway in neighbouring Wales. The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson dismissed vaccination as “pointless” suggesting that already infected badgers would continue to spread TB to livestock. If everyone took this simplistic view on vaccination, we clearly wouldn’t have rid the world of smallpox.
Other strategies that could be used to reduce bovine TB include; developing a vaccine for cattle, better livestock bio-security practice on farms and at markets (see this video to see how livestock bio-security rules are flagrantly ignored in nearby Welsh markets) and more effective testing methods for bovine TB in cattle.
There are huge doubts about the effectiveness of culling badgers to prevent Tuberculosis in cattle. Even the Government’s best estimate for reduction in Bovine TB using culling badgers as a method to control the disease is only a 12-16% reduction after nine years of culling. Evidence suggests that badger movements may increase due to the cull, causing a spread rather than a reduction in Bovine TB. (See the diagram on this page under the title: “How could a badger cull make the bovine TB problem worse” for more details)
To add to the plethora of reasons why the badger cull is a farce, the risk of humans getting TB from consuming the milk from infected cattle is presently very low – in the 1940′s there were 50,000 new cases every year in the UK – because now milk is pasteurised and this kills off the M. Bovis bacteria.
Glos Vegans forming part of a Wounded Badger Patrol
So for all of these reasons and many more, some of us found ourselves wandering the footpaths through the woodlands and fields of Gloucestershire in the small hours of the morning, armed with a flashlight and sporting a Wounded Badger Patrol high-vis vest. The Wounded Badger Patrol was set up by the campaign group Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting to work peacefully and within the law to patrol the footpaths of the Gloucestershire looking for any injured badgers or cubs whose mothers may have been shot. We form part of a team of volunteers, many from Gloucestershire but also from further afield. People are angry about the cull, and there is so little information on something that is secretively taking place in darkened fields, being out there to bear witness to the events that are unfolding seems like one of the most productive things we can do at the moment.
Spirits are high despite the heavy rain and chill night air. We are encouraged by news from earlier in the day that the other pilot cull, in Somerset is proceeding very slowly, with fewer than 100 Badgers shot over a two week period (the target for the Somerset Cull zone is to shoot over 50 badgers each night). The shooters lack of success has been attributed in part to the amount of pro-badger people out patrolling at night, with excellent work being done both by the Wounded Badger Patrols and Hunt Saboteur groups.
We spend the night on patrol, listening and observing for any signs of wounded badgers or shooting. What unites us is that everyone is passionately pro-badger. As the evening draws on we chat about our personal motivations for being involved. One group member tells us movingly of an occasion when he and his teenage son went out badger-watching; they didn’t see any badgers that evening, so eventually they left for home early. When he and his son returned the next night, they realise to their despair that if they’d stuck around longer they could have perhaps prevented a terrible wildlife crime. The sett had been savaged and destroyed by badger killers. He tells us there was badger blood everywhere. They then heard a scratching noise from inside the caved-in sett, and they dug down as fast as they could. Inside the destroyed sett they discover a badger, who is barely alive, his head caved in from blows and skull fractured, but still digging, trying to free itself. They rush the injured badger to a local wildlife hospital who operate on the badger, and miraculously he survives. “This is why I owe a debt to the badgers” the patroller tells us. We continue our patrol with a renewed sense that what we are doing is right, in a way we all owe a debt to the badgers, they are unique and a wonderful part of the local landscape, and unfortunately humans have persecuted and hunted them throughout history.
Wounded Badger Patroller and Glos Vegan with Queen guitarist Brian May
On a previous patrol we we’re joined by Queen Guitarist Brian May who has been outspoken in his criticism of the cull and has supported many anti-cull organisations in their work. We meet him briefly in a local pub where he was busy debating with a group of pro-cull farmers.
Gloucestershire Vegan Group members will continue to go on Wounded Badger Patrol for as long as the cull is in place. If anyone would like to join us, we welcome you. To get involved you can contact Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting on: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join our local Hunt Saboteur Group – Three Counties Sabs – in their efforts to stop the cull, details on their facebook page. Alternatively, if walking the fields at night doesn’t sound like your kind of fun, groups such as Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting, and Three Counties Sabs welcome any financial donations to help cover the cost of their work, details of how to donate are on their respective webpages/facebook pages.