War on badgers; war on wildness

Badger and cow

For the record: I oppose DEFRA’s proposed badger cull, which I recently read ‘could wipe out 100,000 badgers, a third of the national population’. I’ve signed the petition calling for it to be stopped, and apparently this now has enough signatures (over 100,000) to force a parliamentary debate on the subject. However, I don’t accept the unspoken premise underlying even much of the criticism that has been voiced: namely that if it can be proved that the continued, relatively undisturbed existence of wild badger populations poses any kind of threat to the vast population of domesticated cattle in this country then a cull is justified. This agrarian fundamentalist* logic is the main driver behind the current Holocene Extinction in which between 150-200 species are now being driven extinct every day through the actions of farming cultures destroying diverse wild communities in order to impose a chosen few domesticated plant and animal species upon the land – with the purpose of channeling as much of the planet’s biological wealth into the growth of the human population as possible and/or enslaving it to the economic machinations of the vampiric global mega-civilisation. Farmers and capitalists see economic value in cows. They see none in badgers, just like they saw none in wolves, bears, wild boar or aurochs (each driven extinct in Britain over recent centuries and millennia as a consequence of active policies of extermination and secondary effects of other activities such as destruction of habitat, most often related to agriculture) – therefore, on the slightest pretext and with the flimsiest of justifications, they have to go. Witness the insanity with which this topic is debated on national TV, hosted by a household-name naturalist:

Can you hear the sublimated hatred of all things wild – all things living according to an independent will; all things damaging to our religion of total control; all things reminding us of that which we fought (and continue to fight) so hard to put down in ourselves – the coldhearted militaristic language (‘take them out’), the tight grip of irrational fear (those ‘reservoirs’ of disease), the refusal to countenance reality and plough on regardless (‘No, I’m afraid culling will have to take place.’)? Do you see these things as clearly as I do? Do you find them as disturbing?

A while ago I read this article on the badgerland website, talking about the supposed threat posed by badgers to domesticated cattle. This passage in particular made sense to me, supporting Brian May’s contention in the above footage:

Some respectable scientists [citation needed], believe that cattle must meet several conditions before they can catch TB. The argument goes that rather than getting TB immediately they are first exposed to the TB bacteria, the cattle must have most of the following conditions: climate history, certain vitamin deficiencies, compromised immune system, intensive living conditions, high-stress lifestyle, lack of natural immunity to infection and disease, and multiple-exposure to the TB bacteria in a short space of time. In other words, cattle which are raised in natural field-based conditions, with minimum use of anti-biotics and other drugs, low-stress organics lifestyle are much less likely to succumb to TB infection. In organic terms, the higher incidence TB in cattle in the south-west of England is more likely to be due to more intensive cattle-rearing and animal husbandry, than the presence or otherwise of TB-infected badgers.

Another aspect is that TB can be passed from one individual to another by contact with infected breaths, coughs or sneezes, or infected urine or faeces. A very good place for badgers to catch earthworms and dung beetles, is in cow-pats. Perhaps, the argument goes, it is the cows who have TB, who pass it to badgers when the badgers snuffle through cow-pats looking for worms and beetles.

I bet this is the way it works in most, if not all, instances where wild creatures get the blame for the problems plaguing domesticates. I think that, despite what we hear all the time about ‘weeds’, ‘vermin’ and other undesirable interlopers in the grand schemes of human cultivation†, diseases, parasites and other pathological conditions are actually far less prevalent among robust & resilient wild individuals than among the sheltered, dependent, inbred and highly concentrated populations of domesticated plants and animals. As appears to be the case with endemic Bovine TB, the trouble only comes when the conditions have been created for it through the aforementioned hoarding of biological wealth. The disease manifests as ever more forceful attempts at wealth redistribution.

I’ve only seen badgers on a couple of occasions, but that was enough to utterly endear me to their character. I think going after them in this crass, viciously stupid manner (or allowing others to do so when we might have prevented them) can only serve to alienate ourselves further from the wild world at a time when we desperately need to start learning the lessons it has to offer. If we wish to someday beg a home in the spontaneous ecology of this country – ie: woodland – then we will need to apprentice ourselves to those who know how, having done so for many thousands, if not millions of years through an unbroken ancestral lineage. How likely are we to find willing teachers among those whose last contact with somebody who looked like us was through the sight of a gun?

Oh, I forgot to say: I support those engaging in direct action against any attempted badger culls.


* – hat-tip: Urban Scout

† – you could even apply this to the cultivation of human cultures: as we touched on before, think of all the diseases attributed to ‘inferior’, ‘mongrel’ groups of people such as Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and any strange immigrant culture. How often has this prejudice been used as a justification for campaigns of persecution, even genocide?

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4 Responses to “War on badgers; war on wildness”

  1. Ian M Says:

    Sounds like the government has been forced to postpone the cull until at least next summer (they never drop these things completely do they – just save them up for a rainy day a few years down the line when they think nobody will be paying attention). The house of commons debate passed the motion:

    That this House notes the e-petition on the planned badger cull, which has gathered more than 150,000 signatures; and calls on the Government to stop the cull and implement the more sustainable and humane solution of both a vaccination programme for badgers and cattle, along with improved testing and biosecurity

    by 147 votes to 28 – see Damian Carrington’s summary: MPs inflict badger cull defeat on government – as it happened‘. However, it turns out the government can choose to stick up two fingers and push ahead regardless (if it thinks it can risk the unpopularity):

    Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh tries to ask minister David Heath if “ministers will respect the democratic will of this parliament?” He is not obliged to answer.

    The speaker, John Bercow, tells MPs that the vote by MPs to abandon the badger cull is not binding on the government. Only legislation is binding he says.

    Ah, what a wonderful country… The government’s contempt for democracy was exemplified by environment secretary Owen Paterson walking out halfway through, allegedly saying ‘I can’t stand this’. Unsurprisingly most of the MPs who came out in support of the cull were blustering, cocksure tories. Green MP Caroline Lucas seems to have done a decent job of tripping up their convictions with the relevant evidence and contrary expert opinion. Nobody opposed the assumed right of farmers to interfere with wildlife communities as a point of principle.

  2. christine Says:

    At least its a reprieve!

    Our Senate (that’s the upper chamber) just passed legislation allowing a cull of some hundreds of thousands of seals in order to “support the return of the cod fishery”. Canadians just don’t get it. I’m so glad to hear that some of the British public do.

    Um..odd question here, how is HRH Prince Charles siding on this? I recall seeing a program many years ago about his farms, and that he had made specific arrangements for the protection of badger habitat, calling them friends of the farmer. Can’t seem to find anything in the media to answer this, thought you may have heard something?

  3. ‘Ineffective and inhumane’ – or in denial | Frequently Found Growing On Disturbed Ground Says:

    […] in media-land the insanity on the badger cull continues (see previous post). I was unfortunate enough last Friday to witness this Channel 4 news report on a ‘scientific […]

  4. Ian M Says:

    Excellent article by farmer Tim Green for Permaculture Magazine:


    Makes my point about cattle farming creating its own problems better than me, even arguing persuasively that bTB is beneficial, in that it prevents the slide of agribusiness down to the lowest common denominators of ‘food production’:

    [W]e should always bear in mind Sevareid’s Law: “The chief cause of problems is solutions.”

    As farmer Joel Salatin says “pests and diseases are nature’s way of telling us we are doing something wrong”. You could argue that without diseases like bTB we would be free to carry on taking farming down its current ultimately doomed path. We could continue reducing the cattle gene pool to a puddle in the pursuit of ever more productive and freakish animals. Breeds like the Belgian Blue may produce a lot of rump steaks but that muscle mass has to have come at a price – most probably to its internal organs and immune system. It’s no surprise that the new improved Holstein, the darling of industrial milk production, is particularly susceptible to TB infection. They have been bred to produce so much milk that they are effectively forced to digest their own bodies to keep up with their udders. Does that sound like a sensible survival trait to you?

    Intensive farming in a world without Bovine TB

    Without bTB we could also further increase our stocking densities, increase herd sizes, use lower quality forage and just push the animals a little harder all round. What appears to make sense economically is ecological suicide. If there is one thing that nature will not tolerate it is “economies of scale”. Even in the absence of TB, a tightly packed herd of 2000 over-developed, under-the-weather cattle with little genetic variation between them are some other pathogen’s dream home.

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