Deep in the Peak District in the county of Derbyshire an adult badger wakes from its slumber, stretches and wanders to the entrance of the sett that it and its antecedents have occupied for many years, and sniffing the cool autumnal air, shuffles out into the fading light. Two hundred miles away to the South in the depths of a wood in the county of Dorset a female badger also leaves her set. Her cubs have not survived the damp wet summer, she is a little thin and hungry, and anxious to forage in the cool night air.
This evening despite the geographical distance that separates them, both are aware of a different but enticing scent and following their nose they come across a delicious food, a pile of peanuts hidden under a rock. The ground seems strange and unfamiliar but having poor sight they rely on their nose and the smell of peanuts is overwhelming.
Both badgers have wandered into the traps that had been set to catch them, and hidden close to their runs. Both badgers have been attracted by the peanuts that had been hidden under stones. Both would have been startled as they kicked the stones back to reveal the peanuts and heard the trap door slam shut behind them. But the peanuts banish their fears and they settle down to feed.
Its dawn. For one badger trapped in Derbyshire the ordeal will soon be over and it will be free to return to its sett, none the worse for its ordeal. A quick check up, an injection of the TB vaccine, a small patch of fur clipped and a marking spray (lasting no more than two days) and it is then carefully released. It will either rush away or amble slowly back. But it is alive, vaccinated and can return to its sett.
Our other badger has been trapped in Dorset. Men arrive, and shout joyfully that they have ‘got one’. A man with a gun approaches the cage, puts the gun through the bars and pulls the trigger, dispatching the badger. How long will they stand there before they shoot it? Will they taunt it perhaps? They will show no mercy, show no compassion, just a blast of a gun. Once it has been killed no attempt will be made to ascertain whether it had TB. Its body will be bagged and sent for disposal, incinerated perhaps. Will they will remove the ears to prove the kill, to keep as a trophy?
Two animals whose fates are determined by the county that they live in. Almost a post code lottery.
This is the ridiculous situation that exists in this country at the moment. Despite the evidence that the way the cull is carried out is cruel and does not work, despite the evidence that vaccination is achievable and doable and costs a fraction of culling, this government refuses to listen to the science and instead is happy and willing to oversee the killing of a protected mammal, our largest indigenous mammal, because it is desperate to satisfy its political masters, the NFU, who allegedly delivered to the Conservative party the rural vote that won it the last election.
The badgers in Derbyshire are fortunate. Derbyshire was due to be the third county to ‘benefit from the cull.’ However the dedication of a small group people, including an dedicated nurse who seeing the stupidity of culling has given up nursing and dedicated her time to leading the vaccination project, an enlightened and brave NFU farm advisor, the Wildlife trust, the badger group, and some wonderful volunteers, have managed to persuade DEFRA to go down the vaccination route.
For the badgers in West Somerset, Gloucestershire, and Dorset things are not so good. These are the three cull zones, the price to be paid for the electoral support the government got in this and past elections. The blood price. It ignores that fact the majority of people don’t approve of the cull, but in Britain, democracy is not about who you vote for it is about who you know.
There is a twist, something that could only occur when civil servants are involved. As well as culling they are also vaccinating in the cull zones. There are parameters laid down to try and ensure that vaccinated badgers are not caught in the cull, but unfortunately no one has told the badgers. So it is quite possible that badgers will be caught and vaccinated only to be caught again and then shot.
This is not about science, it is about politics and ignorance and burying heads in the sand. It is a disgrace. We should be ashamed of ourselves, that it is being done in our name, using our taxpayer’s money to destroy one of our largest native mammals. It is said that you reap what you sow. We shall see in 2020.