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March 07, 2006

Why is there a campaign to stop the proposed badger cull, but no campaigns to stop the culling of moles or magpies? Jorocs explains why farmers support a badger cull

Posted by Jorocs

The government is currently holding a consultation on its proposal for there to be a large scale cull of badgers to counter the spread of TB from badgers to cattle. The RSPCA is campaigning against the proposed cull. Jorocs explains why farmers support a badger cull. He also wonders why there is a campaign to save the badger but not the mole or magpie.

The RSPCA is organising a campaign - Back Off Badgers - to save the badger, i.e. to stop the proposed cull of badgers.

Can anyone help me? I am totally confused! On the Today Programme, I recently listened to John Humphries and Jim Naughtie jovially encouraging listeners to phone in with ways of exterminating moles. The methods ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. From the usual strychnine or windmills, to the Jasper Carrot method of sitting on the lawn on a revolving stool in the dark with a miner's helmet complete with torch and a twelve bore on his knee. Someone also suggested that Delia Smith should concoct a recipe using moles that was a guaranteed aphrodisiac to cause a severe reduction in the mole population.

And what is the poor mole's crime? he digs up your lawn. Amidst all the paranoia about bird flu arriving and mutating into a virus that may travel from bird to man, we already have an animal here on our shores who shares our urban gardens with us and is carrying a disease which is a zoonosis i.e. a disease that can travel from beast to man and from man to man. I am on about the badger.

The badger population is increasing rapidly and all those poor badgers you see dead on the roadside are most likely in the last stages of the disease. Not only are these animals a threat to their fellow badgers, and a threat to the cattle population of Great Britain, they are also a threat to human beings. Imagine if you will, poor old Brock in the last stages of tuberculin infection, coughing and spluttering the virus all over the bowl you put out to feed the cats and dogs. If these utensils are not properly sterilised you not only put your domestic pets at risk (already vets are finding TB in cats and dogs), but inadvertent contact could cause you or your children to become infected. A bowl of scraps once cleared by the wildlife population in your garden can easily end up in contact with kitchen work surfaces and other utensils.

I would like to say a few words about the emotional impact of tuberculosis on a farming family. Nobody loves to see a live, healthy badger more than me and my fellow farmers but lurking underground, is this insidious threat to my animals and possibly to me. Unfortunately I feel very emotional at the moment, because cow number 84 has just left the farm on a lorry.

To some she is only a cow. To me, she is a maiden heifer, three months off calving. I can still remember the night and the exact spot in the field where she was born. There was an enormous harvest moon hanging in the clear night sky, the stars were shining, and the mist was coming off the river. Her mother's breath was coming out of both nostrils like a dragon as she licked the wobbling calf clean. It was one of those moments, the birth of a heifer calf on a beautiful night that still made farming worthwhile.

The children helped rear her and the wife named her Dessie, the daughter of Dora, her grandmother being Diana. Since our pedigree herd was established in 1934 I can imagine my father and grandfather looking after many of her predecessors. Her only crime has been to contact tuberculosis, yet she will shortly be taken away and shot. This farm is a closed herd, which means no animals are ever bought in; they are all bred on the farm. A main railway line lies on the South boundary of the farm, a river guards the North and a large industrial estate on the east. No neighbouring farm has TB.

Where did it come from? The last case of TB we had was fifteen years ago when we found a dead badger in the cowshed which proved to have died of tuberculosis. I love to see badgers around. Every farmer knows healthy badgers keep diseased ones away. My neighbour's cows do not have necks long enough to reach over rivers and railway lines and none of them have TB. My baby calves are black and white, badgers are black and white, and magpies are black and white. It seems bird watchers can perpetrate all manner of cruelty upon the magpie because they perceive it interferes with their pleasure of bird watching by reducing the songbird population. Perhaps I should start a magpie protection group. Perhaps I should start a mole protection group.

The current situation is a reactive cattle slaughter rather than pro-active disease control scheme. The RSPCA publish a figure of one in seven badgers being infected with TB. Just think of one cow being shot every three minutes and every badger sacrosanct. Dessie was only a cow, but she was part of my life and there is now a sword of Damocles hanging over the rest of my herd.

Jorocs writes about hunting life for the Social Affairs Unit. To read more by Jorocs, see Hunting.

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On the road to my club in mayfair is a costly, fairly new and fully ridiculous memorial to animals killed in war. It is a stone wall, with a gap through which some pack animals are walking, perhaps mules. A legend proclaims something to the effect that the animals had no choice.

A lot of young men in the Somme had rather little choice too, neither did the chickens who had their mcnuggets removed to feed the sanctimonious gits motoring past this expensive folly. after many decades, the local capacity for idiotic sentimentality and rank hypocrisy still never fails to entertain me. So, badgers are good and moles are not? We are dealing with nitwits here in the final stages of decadence where reality itself is banished in favour of make-believe. And I do not mean the quadrupeds.

Posted by: s masty at March 10, 2006 10:52 AM
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