Guest post by campaigner and activist Clive Swinsco on the ongoing badger cull. Clive wrote a previous post for us ‘Birders for Ethical Conservation‘.
‘Badgers – Defend Brock’s Clan’. Clive Swinsco, May 2021
Badgers are innocent! Unfortunately, however, their jury have been bribed and their judges are corrupt; therefore the mass execution of badgers continues.
Political? Of course it’s political! Bloodsports are the ruling class “at play” and property development is one way the rich increase their wealth – Badgers are problematic “on both counts.” In spring 2020 (Vol. 38 No5) BBC Wildlife magazine published the article “Badgers – Out of the Woods?”…I responded in May – my letter was never published (surprise, surprise!)
Now, as I write, an extremely brave Manchester Hunt Saboteur, whilst monitoring an active badger sett near Bolton, has recently been viciously attacked and left for dead by five badger baiters. In Derbyshire, three badgers have been shot dead and left (quite deliberately) to be found on a public footpath. There can be no doubt that the continued “official” killing of badgers by this government has given a killers/baiters “charter” to every sadist, hunter, ignorant farmer or mindless thug in the country; a carte blanche to persecute and kill any badger anywhere It’s what happens when you treat a species with abject contempt and cruelty.
The word disingenuous could have been invented to describe this current Tory administration. This year, on the same day that figures for its continuing badger cull – it’s a kill, by the way, forget the euphemism (language matters: see War on Wildlife Project post13/11/20) – were finally released, their “spinners” sent out a press release talking of “phasing” out the killing of badgers in favour of vaccination. Many people thought it was all over: it’s not! This is where social media is invaluable; let’s get the message out there; badger killing has precious little to do with Bovine TB. It’s in the herd, not the clan (it’s called Bovine for a reason).
In 2020 that BBC article raised several salient issues including the excellent badger vaccination programmes, lack of dairy farm bio security, intensive exploitation of herds and continued cattle trade and movement exacerbating their bovine TB problems.
What the issue did not consider is the inextricable link between the government badger killing policy and the bird shooting industry.
Badgers first received legal protection in 1973 (the Badger Act), significantly strengthened (until government-sponsored killing) by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Since ’73 the bloodsports lobby has sought ways “around” this protection – see “The Fate of the Badger” by Richard Meyer 1986 and 2016. Badger protection has been continually undermined by the shooting/hunting lobby; aided and abetted by unscrupulous property developers. Unfortunately, many people, including the more ignorant and/or gullible dairy farmers seek “simple” solutions to complex problems. Badgers are a convenient scapegoat, and they cannot argue in their own defence.
For this reason, after meeting with the excellent Vanessa Mason (Somerset Badger Group and quotes in BBC article Pg. 58), I decided to volunteer my services to groups defending badgers when the current round of killing commenced in 2013. I operated in both Somerset and Gloucestershire, meeting very many superb, dedicated and knowledgeable activists…. and helped save a few badgers.
Over the years I have supported badger defenders in the kill zones of Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and latterly, Derbyshire. A factor I quickly discovered all these badger killing zones have in common, from Somerset to Derbyshire, is their proximity to Pheasant and Partridge shooting estates. With shoot estate managers and their gamekeepers hired to kill any species posing a threat to the saturation (literally millions!) of birds to be shot, i.e. killed for “fun”, by paying clients.
Why does the industry detest badgers so much? Badgers are Mustelids, members of the Weasel family (along with Otters, Pine Martens, Stoats etc.). Not only that, badgers are our biggest Mustelid; strong, powerful, resourceful, resilient and determined creatures – the reason vile, violent, criminal sadists choose them for the horrifically cruel bloodsport of baiting with dogs. Badgers are also very difficult to keep out of Pheasant rearing pens!
The shooting industry wants to see the Badger off our protected species list, or, at the very least, be able to apply for (and be granted without question) a license to kill them…legally.
Many shoots and estates already kill Badgers illegally (see Hunt Investigation Team, Moorland Monitors and the powerful book “Snared” by activist Bob Berzins – read a review here). The bloodsport of bird shooting has much to answer for and it concerns me that this is exactly where this government “thinking” is headed. Their disingenuous “phasing out the Badger kills” statements are clearly spin to alleviate, confuse, dis-inform and detract from the growing pressure of public outcry at the continuing slaughter of a much loved iconic animal. Again, as I write Wild Justice are currently challenging (from the obvious cruelty aspect) any shooting of badgers.
Meanwhile, back in deepest Derbyshire, the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme has been operating diligently and successfully for several years, but as I understand it, neither Chatsworth House nor Haddon Hall (both large shooting estates) will allow vaccinators access to Badgers on their lands (whilst officially stating, “Chatsworth is not against Badger vaccination programmes”!) Clearly there’s a lot at stake for Derbyshire’s Badgers here – there’s also a lot at stake for Chatsworth and Haddon; not least their reliance upon being a significant tourist attraction!
For two years, 2018 and 2019, the very vocal opposition of Derbyshire activists, the vaccination project and a determined Derbyshire Wildlife Trust successfully campaigned against the senseless slaughter of Badgers happening in their county. Ominously, December 2019 heralded a Tory general election victory. Consequently, despite campaigners’ best efforts, contract killers arrived in the autumn of 2020, swiftly turning the delightful Derbyshire Dales into the Dastardly Dales of death for Brock and his clan. Hunt Saboteurs, Badger Patrollers, Monitors and other campaigners mobilised; cages were located, Badgers lives were saved…
But, inevitably thousands of innocent Badgers were still shot and killed, their bodies piled high in macabre Badger body barns (see Derbyshire Against the Cull footage and local media coverage) awaiting the incinerator.
With the worldwide pandemic, viral zoonotic diseases rife and spreading due to human exploitation of animals, I would suggest that a much more sensible plan would be to stop the Badger kill immediately and phase out the cruel and unsustainable meat and dairy industry as soon as possible.
Unless we all seriously ramp up our resistance – come on Extinction Rebellion, Greens, Labour Party, Wildlife Trusts, Mammal Societies, Vincent Wildlife Trust, British Naturalists Association, BBC Spring Watch et al….”let’s be ‘avin’ you” – our iconic Badger Clans will be done to death. With this “official” Badger killing contract will inevitably come more and more illegal persecution, casual killing, bulldozing of setts by property developers, hunt terrier thugs blocking and digging out setts (with foxhunts “accounting” for Badgers), and gruesome Badger Baiting by vile, abusive, violent thugs and criminals.
So, Badgers? ‘Out of the woods’? Certainly not. Not by a long way. This Badger kill has been rolled out relentlessly, and if Badgers venture out of their setts anywhere between Cumbria and Cornwall (assuming they haven’t already been dug out by hunt terrier thugs or murderous baiters) they’re still facing the traps and guns of the contract killers.
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