Monday, July 1, 2013

Killings that divide a nation

 Dear Animal Lovers,

         The British Government plans to murder my friends on a huge scale. But there just might be enough of you to stop this.
         It’s taken centuries for the Brits to become mature enough to realise that killing animals for fun is not on.
         They outlawed fox and deer hunting with dogs in 2005. That was for the amusement of toffs and the idle rich, so with their influence they managed to keep their sport going a bit longer than the poor man’s equivalent – badger digging. That was made illegal in 1992.

         It was an even more barbaric form of murder.

         More than half a century ago when I was a reporter for an evening newspaper in Exeter I tagged along on one of these hunts.
   In the midst of a wood our hounds, two little Jack Russels, located a badger burrow or sett and fearless disappeared underground. When their owners heard them barking they began to dig. Eventually the fluffy badger that was exposed was shot at point blank range.
         When they pulled out the body of what turned out to be a mother or sow three helpless, pink cubs that hadn’t yet open their eyes appeared.

            I felt that one was all I could hope to save so I took it. To begin with it had to be fed with milk every two hours and later this was extended to every four. As my wife was working it went with me to the Express and Echo in a cardboard box. The box was put on top of a radiator in the copytakers room to keep it warm and in between typing stories from reporters Joan Pond and Rosemary Sims became its foster parents. After 10 weeks it was still being fed every four hours and Badger’s high pitched squeaks had become part of the scene in the editorial department. With some trepidation I introduced it to our dog Chaka and the two became best of pals. Eventually when it got too much of a handful for us to keep any longer I passed it on to the presenter of a TV animal show.

         The other two were killed by the intrepid hunters.

         Badgers are delightful, lightning fast little animals with an impressive bite. Mainly nocturnal they weigh about 24 kg and they feed on rodents, insects and bulbs. In their own environment a Jack Russel is no match for them. And when one of the dogs on my hunt came up with part of his face hanging open his owner stitched it up there and then.
         He had hardly put him back on the ground when this gutsy little dog was down the hole once again.
         Now farmers and some experts have convinced the Conservative dominated coalition Government that the badger protection law needs to be bypassed so that thousands of these animals can be shot in various parts of England.

         They are being blamed for spreading tuberculosis in cattle which resulted in 28 000 having to be slaughtered in England last year.
         A 10 year Government study that cost 50-million pounds is conveniently being ignored. It concluded that badger culling was unlikely to contribute to the control of cattle TB.
         The opposition Labour Party is against the cull and after a four hour debate in Parliament it lost the vote by 250 to 299. 
         But more than 250 000 people are determine to stop the slaughter. They have signed a Save the badger petition which has the support of celebrities like Queen guitarist Brian May and naturalist TV presenter Bill Eddie.
Brian May leading the protest
         They were joined by hundreds of people, many with badger masks or with their faces painted black and white, on the streets of London when the petition was handed in at the Prime Minister’s residence in Downing Street.
         The move has divided the nation – animal lovers in the towns against farmers in the country.
         This animal is so much part of English life that Mr Badger was one of the characters in that timeless children’s book Wind in the willows by Kenneth Grahame. Since it was first publish in 1908 there have been a host of different versions over the years and it has been made into films as well as a BBC radio series.
         It is hard to think of a more ridiculous plan. There are an estimated 300 000 badgers in Great Britain and as a pilot scheme the Government intends to have 5 000 of them shot over a four year period in parts of just two counties.
         Even if they do spread TB in cattle how will this drop in the ocean possible help?
        So all you animal lovers keep up the pressure on the British Government until they abandon this hair brain idea.
         The only practical answer is to stop wasting money on trying to eradicate badgers and to put a lot more resources into developing an effective vaccine again TB in cattle.
         Jon, a Badger Lover who knows first hand just how cute they can be. 

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