Are Badgerland against farming and farmers?
No - all of us at Badgerland fully accept and encourage farmers to run their farms following "best practice" as far as possible. Of course, mistakes have been made in farming over the past decades, but very rarely could these have been blamed on individual farmers. Most of the past problems in farming and agriculture stem from bad policy or poor management (by agri-business, MAFF/DEFRA or by British or European politicians).
For example, whilst the BSE problem has done immense damage to farming, the cause was because of a policy change that allowed renderers to produce animal feed at a reduced temperature (which thereby allowed the transmission of the BSE agent into the food chain), and not individual farmers.
Whilst the initial Foot and Mouth infection appeared to be caused originally by a single farmer. The crisis could have been avoided if MAFF had not mis-managed the situation from the day the Foot and Mouth case was first confirmed.
Aren't Badgerland just a load of "townies" who just want to save the planet?
No - all of us at Badgerland are country-people through and through. Badgerland is located in the rural village of Blackshawhead, near Hebden Bridge in Calderdale in West Yorkshire. We are surrounded by fields and moorland, and we strongly believe that a vibrant farm economy is of vital importance to the country-side. Whilst we have opinions about what farm practices should be improved, this does not mean that we want to see an end to animal farming.
Isn't Badgerland, just a plot to get people to go vegetarian?
No. None of us at Badgerland are vegetarians. For our part, we are more than happy that people follow whatever diet they are morally, physically or financially happy with. For our part, we are more than happy with our omnivorous diet (including beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, game, vegetables, fruit, etc).
How can you "square" opposition to badger culling with the eating of meat?
In our view, the badger culling is not necessary on such a large scale; but some serious research is necessary to establish the real reasons for the increasing incidence of TB in cattle. We think that it is likely to be inevitable that at least a few animals are killed in order to establish how and why TB spreads in animals (and humans). Note that we have used the term "animals", and not just badgers. We believe the issue with TB in cattle may well have multiple sources of infection; and we believe that any realistic solution must involved rigorous, detailed scientific research on animals such as cattle, badgers, rats, cats, deer and other TB sources (such as silage, slurry, etc).
In terms of how many need to die, we think that far, far fewer badgers need to be killed in order to help further scientific understanding of TB. Scientists are currently working on very high-tech tests, which will means that the DNA of an individual TB infection will be able to be tracked as the infection spreads. Using technology such as this would make it a lot easier to identify cattle-to-cattle spread, badger-to-badger spread, cattle-to-badger spread and badger-to-badger spread. Such high-tech testing would mean that we would not need to kill tens of thousands of badgers or cattle.
Importantly, high-tech testing would also allow other cattle diseases to be tracked too. It would then become much clearer whether the issue on TB in cattle was an isolated "wildlife-related" problem; or whether it had more to do with, for example, animal husbandry and modern farming practices. It is as well to bear in mind that the increase in TB infections in cattle also has parallels with other cattle-based diseases; which do not infect badgers.
In the case of eating meat, we support the increasing number of animal welfare schemes and are strong supporters of organic or near-organic farming (wherever possible). However, killing a farm animal for its meat is for a much higher purpose than killing an animal simply for often spurious scientific knowledge or for a blood sport or to satisfy the NFU.
So what should be done about bovine TB?
If there was a simple "Jim'll Fixit" type of answer, wouldn't it have been done already?
Whilst badgers might be a contributory cause in some areas, cattle still do get TB in areas where badgers are completely free of the disease, so badgers can not be the sole cause. Of course, TB in badgers was only discovered in 1961, at least 2000 years after TB was first present in cattle. Proof, if any were needed, that badgers are not the only cause of TB in cattle!
The real problem with bovine TB in cattle is one with many possible causes. It could be that badgers infect cattle, or that cattle infect badgers or that both infect one another. It could be that the combination of shed-rearing, vitamin deficiency, stress, weather conditions and animal husbandry are to blame too. It might also be the less-than-perfect TB test for cattle, or the fact that the testing regime may be as little as once every four years, or the fact that cattle are trucked around the country through different cattle markets and from one herd to another.
We think that DEFRA should embark on a hugely enlarged program of research to establish the full nature of TB, both with experts in the UK and overseas. We also believe that DEFRA's research program should be examined by independent (i.e. non-DEFRA experts), to make sure their research is not overlooking something.
We think TB testing should take place before the sale of each animal, and the result stated on the cattle passport. We think that certified TB-clear animals should attract full-market-value compensation, and that any untested animals (or those with a non-recent clear test) should attract only partial compensation figure.
We think the government should require farmers to place newly bought animals in buffer zones, where they can not come into contact with other cattle, until their TB status has been confirmed. We think schemes should be set in place to allow buffer zones between adjacent farms (to prevent cow-to-cow transmission), and that such buffer zones should attract set-aside status. It appears quite likely that cow-to-cow transmission between adjacent fields and farms could be drastically reduced, if traditional solid-laid hedgerows were as common as they once were.
We think that where there has been TB on a farm, all local badger setts should be assessed by a licensed expert or a badger group, and badger-proof fencing erected to help maintain separation distances between badgers and cattle.
We think that where there has been TB on a farm, schemes should be enforced to exclude all TB-carriers from food and drinking troughs and food bins on farms; and that an enforceable system of farm management be adopted to mitigate the risk of further outbreaks (such as improved animal husbandry, closing badger-proof gates at night, banning the use of slurry from or on farms which have had TB over the past 6 months, etc). The objective here is to limit the damage that infected farms can do to their neighbours.
We think too that much more should be done with high-tech methods for identifying different strains of TB, and possible transmission routes. We believe that this will help develop vaccines - includes vaccines for cattle and badgers, which can be applied orally or by injection. We strongly suspect that such new research for badgers and cattle, would also have the effect of improving our overall knowledge of the TB infection, with every chance of increasing our understanding how drug-resistant strains of TB might become more prominent.
Aren't you another of the "cuddly-badger" brigade?
The badger is Britain's favourite wild mammal; and many people have the erroneous impression that badgers, foxes, mink and other creatures with fur are cuddly countryside pets.
At Badgerland, we have seen the extensive damage that badgers can do to gardens and fields; we've also seen badgers be extremely aggressive towards one another, other species and their human helpers. We have also seen the horrific damage done to livestock and poultry by foxes, the terrible damage done to sheep and lambs by large uncontrolled dogs and many other examples of the true "blood and guts" of the countryside.
So far as we are concerned, badgers do have a cuddly image, but can be exceptionally red in tooth and claw. However, that is true of many wild species - including, it has to be said, the human species.
Our objective is to educate people about badgers and how they can best live natural lives in their preferred habitats.
What about Badgerland's independence?
Badgerland have always been and will remain an independent organisation.
We are not a mouthpiece for any particular viewpoint or organisation.
We are not recipients of any subsidies or grants that might seek to alter or remove our independent viewpoint.
We have not received any funding from DEFRA or the NFU or Natural England.
As an organisation, Badgerland have taken the policy decision not to become corporate members any pro-Badger organisation (like the Badger Trust), although we do, of course, reserve the right to support badgers in any way we can (financially or otherwise).