Someone once said that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing and when it comes to the issue of badger I can only shout "amen!"
Much is written and a lot is being said about the proposed Cull of badgers in England & Wales.
I see shades of the class war in this, in much the same way as there is in the foxhunting debate. People bang on about the poor little harmless badger yet seem almost stone cold about the losses of cattle suffered by farmers.
On the other side of the coin there is the odd farmer who is himself a bigoted bully & has only one remedy for anything that is in his way & that is to destroy it.
Where I sit in this debate both opinion wise & physically, is somewhere in the middle ground.
I am not going to go into all of the ins and outs of cull versus vaccination as I am not qualified to do so. What I am going to do is tell you how it looks from up close.
A few years ago I stumbled upon badger baiters on my land. A burly bunch of knuckle draggers with their dogs. I challenged them & they just claimed to be after rabbits. I pointed out that thanks to myxomatosis there were no rabbits and that they were digging on a badger sett. They grudgingly packed up & moved on. The following morning when I arrived to feed my animals there was a badger hanging on my gate which had been dragged alive up the road behind a vehicle & then left do die dangling from my gate.
I was a little naive back then. I expected the local farmers to be outraged by this when I went round to warn them of the badger baiters, but they just said "OK" & they would keep an eye out.
I wasn't aware of the simmering hatred of the badger that was brewing back then or that one of the farmers in question had been losing cattle to bTB.
Three years on from then, I once again stumbled upon the baiters and this time they had a badger and were fighting it with dogs. I called the police, they were arrested in the act & the rest is history.
That was when I found out just what a naive muppet I had been. From that moment I was public enemy number one to some of the members of my local farming community.
I was initially mistaken for a tree hugging bastard who cared nothing for the fact that farmers had been losing cattle. I was tackled in the pub by a prominent figure & I was able to set the record straight.
I don't think most people had reallised that the baiters were actually fighting the badgers with dogs but it became clear that most farmers knew that 'badger killers' were active in the area on the quiet.
That was when I began to realise that as things stand, badgers are suffering a 'dirty war.' I am not judging anyone here because I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for farmers to lose hundreds of animals which are irreplaceable. Animals which may have taken a family generations to create and will be lost for ever whilst the badger was enjoying protected status. It doesn't make any sense to some of them and it doesn't make any sense to me either.
I used to think that badgers must have the worlds worst road sense until I took a closer look at things. The number of dead badger lying at the side of the road in some places is greater than that of rabbits. of course the truth is that they are just being killed & dumped at the roadside and also run down by people with 4x4s who have begun to hate then with a vengeance.
The debate about the cull is a good one & it is a very good thing that pressure groups have pushed hard to stop an all out slaughter of the badger or by now we could be living in a country that has none but the problem is that it has dragged on to the cost of both the farmer and the badger.
The farmers have not only suffered huge losses and great distress, they have also done everything in their power to reduce the spread of bTB from cow to cow, by changing how they keep their cattle.
Now they have given all the ground so far as I can see, yet the badger supporters have thus far given not a single inch.
The new proposed, limited cull in England, as I understand it offers a very good compromise which if the badger supporters were less entrenched would grasp. The proposal is to allow free shooting of badgers on the land of anyone who agrees to it. In real terms this simply removes the badgers protected status & brings it into line with other species such as foxes.
The benefits of this for the badger are that it is likely to end the 'dirty war' and allow numbers to fall back to a more manageable level at a slow enough rate for an assessment of the effectivness of the scheme.
The best thing about it is that it appeases the long suffering farmer whilst giving both sides of the argument sufficient breathing space to look at vaccination of both badgers & cattle & hopefully see an end to this dreadful disease.
To quote The farmer who tackled me in the pub about badgers. "I would like to see a healthy population of both badgers and cattle side by side on my land."
Long live the badger & let's stop fighting one another.