A peaceful protest of the ongoing UK badger cull is being planned for this Sunday, under the banner “Vaccinate Not Exterminate.” The controversial badger cull was called into effect this fall in Gloucestershire and Somerset, two UK counties in which farm and dairy cattle are considered at high risk for contracting bovine tuberculosis. Bovine tuberculosis, or bTB, is a disease that can be carried by most mammals, including badgers; in an attempt to eradicate the disease before it reaches livestock, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), headed by Owen Paterson, called for the badger cull. By killing wild badgers, Paterson believes that bTB can be effectively removed from the countryside.
DEFRA has asked local farmers and hunters to take responsibility for the badger cull, using their own guns and traps; protesters have dedicated themselves to destroying traps and gathering in cull zones so that hunters may not safely shoot in the area. The violence against one animal species has Britons furious with Owen Paterson, who has spent millions of pounds on the project without even coming close to his target goal of 70 percent of cull-zone badgers being killed. Already the badger cull timeline has been extended, animals have been found wounded and dying after being shot, trapped or chased, and Paterson has received enough death threats to warrant a legal restriction on publishing his home address. Anti-cull spokespeople wonder why the money was not simply spent on bTB vaccinations, which would be equally effective and in keeping with badger protection laws.
Animals rights groups, including Care for the Wild International and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, are appalled by the idea of hunting badgers, particularly because it is in blatant disregard to the Protection of Badgers Act of 1992. The Protection Act was drawn up to ensure that, legally, no one might harm, injure, trap or kill any badger that was not a threat. The Facebook group, Brighton March against the Badger Cull, is organizing anti-badger cull protesters who are in support of the 1992 Act. Large protests have already been held in other parts of the UK, including London; protesters have included rock stars, animal rights activists, environmental broadcasters and even farmers, who have the most to lose if bTB spreads.
Brighton March against the Badger Cull participants are concerned for the welfare of their local East Sussex badgers if their county is named the next cull zone. Participants in the march are buying and selling wristbands with the words “VACCINATE NOT EXTERMINATE – STOP THE BADGER CULL” emblazoned on them to raise funds for local badger vaccinations. Project organizers hope that bTB can be fought medicinally instead of violently in their area. If successful, the proactive East Sussex initiative could change the way future outbreaks are dealt with across the entire country.
Brighton’s anti-cull Facebook page explains:
The government is intent on culling badgers in its efforts to eradicate bovine TB. Science tells us that badgers play only a small role in this problem and that better testing, bio-security and control of cattle movements are the key changes needed to reduce this disease in cattle. DEFRA has designated part of East Sussex an area of “High Risk” for bTB and, if it rolls out the culling of badgers, we could see gunmen shooting our wildlife as early as 2014. Please come to this peaceful meeting to show that you object to this pointless killing of our largest remaining indigenous mammal. Dominic Dyer, chairman of Care for the Wild International, will lead the speeches.
Volunteers with the Wounded Badger Patrol have been monitoring cull zones to search for animals who have been wounded because of the badger cull. Vet and Green Party spokeswoman for animal issues Caroline Allen told the press “we want to be here to show solidarity with the protesters. We know that the cull is completely unscientific, unethical and will be inhumane.”
Protesters are gathering together tomorrow at noon in Brighton, outside the Theatre Royal.
For more on the cull and Owen Patterson look here: Owen Patterson Says More Badgers Must Die
Written by Mandy Gardner