Badger hit squad makes me shudder

I AM becoming really quite a massive fan of Brian May.

Friday, 28th September 2012, 2:34 pm

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter privately to myself, let alone put in print.

But Brian, he of Queen and mad hair, has rocketed up my list of favourite people by becoming champion of the badgers.

Outraged by the government’s plans to allow the culling of them in an attempt to stamp out bovine TB, he organised an online petition which attracted over 100,000 signatures within a week, meaning the issue will now have to be debated in the House of Commons.

He’s not the only one that’s been left outraged, as that public reaction goes to show.

The decision to allow a trial of the killing of these wild animals is nothing short of ridiculous. Huge amounts of scientific research suggests that it’s hard to judge what effect the cull will actually have on the spread of TB in cattle.

In fact certain evidence points to it helping the spread of the disease, as killing the animals could disrupt their social groups leading to them moving out of their territory, taking the TB with them. If they have it - which very few of them actually will.

The way the cull would be carried out is also a little horrifying. They won’t be captured but lured out of their setts and shot by trained marksmen.

Quick and painless, probably, but the idea of badger hit squads roaming the countryside of an evening is something I find a little distressing. Especially as the snipers out to get them won’t be giving the badgers a quick medical before despatching them, meaning that countless perfectly healthy animals will probably be killed for no reason at all.

Of course there are humane alternatives to halt the spread of the disease, including vaccinating badgers (not as difficult or costly as it sounds) and farmers taking extra steps to ensure the animals cannot get onto land where their cattle graze or are housed.

So if there are alternative methods of preventing the spread of disease – and the science appears to say they would work far more effectively - and the public are so overwhelmingly against the idea, why push ahead with it? It just seems beyond all reasoning.

And beyond that of Mr May, whose petition could possibly help in making the government think again on this one - and I really hope it does.

I’m not living in some kind of fantasy world where badgers all hang out with their friends at Toad Hall. I really don’t think I’ve got a rose tinted view of all this.

I think what it comes down to, unfortunately, is cold hard cash.

The idea of the public thinking – however wrongly – the country’s dairy and meat supplies are riddled with TB must terrify the farming community and the big supermarket chains, and in turn the government.

However, it would appear they’ve all shot themselves in the foot on this one by massively misjudging public opinion.

Because the public aren’t stupid and they don’t think that.

But they do, it would appear, think that going around shooting badgers is more than just a little bit wrong.