Saturday, 9 November 2013

Are Badgers evil? Discuss.

Badgers have a wide and varied diet
I have just been reading the latest NFU magazine “Farmer & Grower” which is full of good articles covering a wide range of topics and useful snippets of information.  As I flicked through the pages I came across the comments from the tractor cab page with its “star letter” entitled “changing people’s perceptions of Badgers”.

The letter described an early morning fishing trip to the river Stour one late spring morning. On arriving, out on the water meadows there was quite a commotion going on amongst the local Peewit (Lapwing) population, which were screaming and diving around. Further investigation found that the cause of all this turmoil was a group of Badgers munching up the bird’s eggs.

The letter then went on to say, and I now quote, “A lot of blood was on the egg shells, so they must have been near to hatching. It really broke our hearts that Badgers could be so evil”. The letter finished with “If more people were aware of how evil Badgers can be, perhaps those who protect them might change their minds”.

What struck me about this letter was the use of the word “evil”. Are Badgers really evil? Were the men who in the 18th and 19th centuries, collected Lapwing eggs from Norfolk marshland in their thousands and transported them to London markets, selling them as delicacies for “three shillings a dozen”, evil people? Only the other day I came across a small group of field mushrooms, which I eagerly gathered up to take home to eat – does that also put me into the “evil” category?

Badgers have inhabited the UK for 250,000 years (See November’s species of the month on Badgers by going to the tab at the top of this page) and have evolved a wide and varied diet, which includes eggs, hedgehogs and bumble bee grubs. But I don’t think that this makes it an evil animal, any more than a Dolphin killing fish or a Spotted Flycatcher taking a pretty butterfly to eat.

What I do think is that it is all a question of balance and if we find that Badger numbers in the countryside are causing problems in regard to TB or are impacting severely on Lapwing or Hedgehog numbers, then we should have a grown up debate on the pros and cons of introducing control measures to restore the balance of nature. Labelling an animal as “evil” seems to me to be very unhelpful indeed.

I have also noticed a push by the animal rights movement to label milk from outside the pilot cull zone as “Badger friendly”, which may also not be described as an “evil” move, but is certainly extremely dishonest in my opinion.

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