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article imageReview: 'Badgers: Dodging the Bullet?' Special

By Alexander Baron     Nov 13, 2012 in Environment
Away from our cities lies an issue every bit as controversial as bankers' bonuses, last years riots or the ongoing Jimmy Savile scandal. The proposed cull of Britain's badgers.
Most of the people who watch this programme will never have seen a badger in the flesh, including me as far as I recall. I've certainly never seen one in the wild. I have though seen hedgehogs, albeit not for many years, and foxes are now a common sight even in Sydenham. Who could not like hedgehogs? I like foxes too, I think they're cute, so do many people, hence the slogan: "For fox sake, stop hunting!" Replace fox with badger, and the pun dissolves, but just as hunting foxes has met with vociferous opposition over the years - sport, they call it - so has shooting badgers.
There is no pathetic excuse of sport used for the badger cull; everyone agrees there is a problem in the countryside of tuberculosis, particularly among cattle. That is where the consensus ends. Some believe badgers are responsible, some do not; science aside, some want the cull to go ahead, some do not. The anti-cull side has attracted some high powered support including Brian May, who along with Joe Satriani and Mark Knopfler is one of the most innovative guitarists in the world.
A few weeks ago, when the cull was being debated, I contacted two badger support groups several times for some comment. Neither of them bothered to reply. Fortunately, this in-depth analysis makes their non-responses superfluous. Even more fortunately, this programme will be available for another twelve months on the Panorama website, and for those who can't receive it, someone will surely upload it to YouTube or elsewhere.
Panorama meets the marksmen who are being trained to shoot the badgers and those opposed to the cull.
The Government has commissioned two companies to carry out the cull, which will be in a controlled area rather than nationwide. Unsurprisingly, it has done so in something of a cloak and dagger fashion, because many of those opposed to the cull consider it to be an act of badgocide.
Brian May makes an appearance in the programme, and it should come as no surprise that he practises what he preaches, as is attested by the tame looking badger in his garden.
Badgers have been shot in the UK before - in a limited 10 year trial - and one of the academics who worked on that cull believes a new cull may be counterproductive. Dr Chris Cheeseman says that among other things it may increase the movements of badgers.
The cull has now been delayed for logistical reasons. In the meantime we can only hope that some alternative can be found. though apart from vaccination, it remains to be seen what.
The one piece of good news is that as a protected species with no natural predators, its numbers have increased dramatically in recent years. Let us hope that like the otter, the badger continues to be one of our success stories.
More about Badgers, Tuberculosis, Cattle, badgocide, Brian may
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