The damned shame of it all

Chris Packham

I wake up and I simply wonder why? Why can there seriously be any thought of this cull going ahead? Why, after we conducted a thorough scientific analysis, which showed it would actually make the problem worse, are we going to kill badgers? Why, when bTB is such a serious problem are we doing this, rather than investing in the development of effective vaccines for cattle? Why are the NFU, a body that should be acting in the best interest of all of their members generating insidious and inaccurate propaganda, which may ultimately drive a wedge between the public and farmers? Why, why, why?

Well, because it has clearly nothing to do with science, nothing to do with rational or reasoned thought, nothing to do with a respect for our beleaguered wildlife, nothing to do with anything more than ignorant face-saving, knee-jerking politics.  And if it goes ahead it will be a damning blot on us, our government and our attitude to life. Indeed, from my perspective, it is in many ways already this.

The public don’t want it, as the petition showed; the vast majority of our elected representatives don’t want it, as the subsequent vote showed; so where is the always-lauded democracy when we need it? There is none. This is plain belligerence fuelled by ignorance, an ignorance malevolently stoked by those trying to placate a few members of an industry that has been horribly abused by all of us for years. And word has it that more abuse is on the way and that therefore this cull is a token scrap before a further slap. And paradoxically our farmers need help, not any hindrance incurred by such divides, which is why, even in the face of this ugly fiasco I will not be boycotting British farm produce. I may, if I’m confident it’s true, choose to avoid produce from farms actively involved in the cull and proactively choose another British alternative.

Indeed, I’ll try to be even more supportive of our farmers needs, because if we want a wildlife rich countryside we need a secure and sustainable rural economy and effective partnerships with those who manage it. And if we were actually prepared to make it worth their while then maybe we could better summon the temerity to ask them to do something for us in return – like not kill badgers. Folks, we flock to supermarkets clamouring for food so cheap that those that toil over our soils can’t compete. They are bullied and bankrupted by a corrupt monopoly of price-fixing and shareholders greed and we go along with it. It’s shameful.

It’s also utterly shameful that some of our prominent charities, in whom we have invested as custodians and carers of our wildlife have been hiding in the shadows of this debate, guarding their interests rather than their integrity, dodging conflict with their trustees, partners and a minority of their members when they should be shouting the truth, and their desire to uphold it for us, from their ramparts. Weak, insecure and lame, they have failed us and failed the creatures they preach about protecting.

But perhaps saddest of all for me is our rejection of the science. That’s how I govern my life, using the facts as I know them at the time. That seems like a sound practice to me. And when the country’s leading scientists independently publish an open letter stating that the cull won’t work, following exhaustive and expensive independent investigation, then I’ll believe them and shape my ideas accordingly. If only our elected decision-makers were honest enough to make equally dispassionate choices and not allow the insidious spectre of self-interest to participate in their pronouncements then surely this cull wouldn’t be on anyone’s agenda?

So what to do? Science and democracy having been tried and failed . . . Well, I’m afraid ‘direct action’ will result and I fear that some of it will be destructive to our cause because it will undermine our stance as those on the reasoned, morally right and creative side of the debate. Please can we at least resist counterproductive conflict? If direct action has to happen, let’s make it entirely peaceful, let’s make it imaginative and not in anyway destructive, let’s not sink to the level of our opposition. Remember that while the media may support our majority view, it can equally damn us because of the actions of a few idiots.

Instead, let’s continue to use our passion, energy and belief to generate further public support, let’s protest with the pen, with the petition and with peaceful presence, let’s continue to pronounce the facts with clarity, let’s show sympathy with those who have been misinformed and misled, let’s make a difference for our badgers and uphold our right to protect our wildlife.  

© Chris Packham

© Chris Packham

Chris Packham is a zoologist and naturalist with a great interest in ecology. Acclaimed internationally as a wildlife photographer, Chris is also known to millions of television viewers as a wildlife television presenter as well as for his work for many wildlife charities.