£7,000 The Price of a Badger's Life
Guardian - Sunday 10th December 2000
by Antony Barnett
20,000 badgers will die in a cull to test whether they spread bovine
TB. Antony Barnett reports on the battle between animal activists and the
Debbie Vincent brandished a
pair of bolt-cutters, produced from her ripped Barbour jacket, and began
cutting through the bars of a rusty cage placed outside a badger sett in
the heart of Exmoor.
As torrential rain fell and thunderclaps sounded, she cut the cage into
quarters and hurled it down a grassy bank into a raging river. The cage,
laced with peanuts, was intended to snare any badger tempted by the easy
meal. A trigger traps the badger, slamming the iron doors shut.
The animals' torment would be ended when an official from the Ministry
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food arrives at dawn, tips the cage on its
side, puts a pistol to the badger's head and blows the creature's brains
out. The animal would then be put into a body bag, hurled into the back of
a Land-Rover and taken to a government lab to be cut up and examined for
traces of bovine tuberculosis.
This is the disease which is sparking real fear in a farming community
still devastated by the legacy of mad cow disease. Cases of TB- infected
cattle have soared in recent years and farmers blame the badgers for
spreading the disease to their cows by urinating on grazing pasture to
mark their territory.
As a result, more than 20,000 badgers are to die in a prolonged cull
over the next few years. But protesters claim there has never been any
firm scientific evidence to prove the link between badgers and TB in
Two years ago the Government set up trials in 10 'hot spot' regions of
the country where more than 20,000 of Britain's badgers would be
exterminated. If TB in the trial regions of the badger cull falls, the
link will be proved.
Horrified by the killing, a coalition of hundreds of animal rights
activists around the country are determined to stop the cull, using direct
action to destroy Maff's traps.
Not only do the campaigners argue there is no proof that badgers pass
TB on to cows, but they also believe that the problems are down to
intensive farming techniques. They want resources spent on promoting
better animal husbandry techniques and the development of vaccines.
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