The largest surviving terrestrial carnivore in the UK, the badger, immortalized in such works as “The Wind in the Willows” as symbolic of the country, are caught in between animal rights activists and farmers.
Badgers, who share fields with cows, are often blamed for outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis, and thus the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has licensed the capture and killing of thousands per year. Anti-cull organizations, in response, will patrol and attempt to interrupt hunts, using their presence to prevent the discharge of firearms under UK law.
One trial claimed that annual culls would reduce transmission rates of the disease by only 16%, with the architect of the study saying that the costs of Badger culls would far outweigh the benefits.
This not only includes the costs of contracting exterminators, but the environmental and social costs of this industry and its actions.
By DEFRA’s own numbers, the badger culls have killed nearly a third (150,000) of the national badger population (485,000) in only five years, an alarming rate.
The bulk of the science seems to call into question the value of the culls, but the National Farmers Union is instrumentally using its own studies to support the culls.
In the meantime, the deep controversy regarding the killing of this iconic animal will remain, especially when there is a vaccine available to prevent bovine tuberculosis that is being underutilized.
Staff writer: Ari B