In the UK, The Government’s decision to begin culling badgers across a swathe of Somerset and Gloucestershire in an attempt to stem the spread of bovine TB has left communities deeply divided.
On one side are those, like Miss Brumby and her fellow members of the Somerset Badger Patrol, determined to do what they can to disrupt the cull.
“We’re a very broad based campaign, made up of all sorts of people who think this cull is not only cruel, but unscientific and counterproductive and I’m sure most people would agree with us,” she said.
On the other side, there are hundreds of farmers, labourers and rural residents, convinced the only way to tackle the Bovine Tuberculosis epidemic threatening to cripple Britain’s dairy and cattle herd is by killing the animal they believe is spreading it unhindered. Of course, those in favour of the cull are just as passionate in their belief as Miss Brumby and her friends.
Marilyn Bramall, 62, serving behind the till at the Post Office and shop in the village of Stogumber – at the heart of the Somerset culling zone – has lost patience with those who oppose the action. She told The Telegraph,
“How many people are being gassed in Syria? And we’re complaining about a few badgers getting killed? I know a lot of farmers, I’ve spoken to them, and they are desperate to do something to tackle the bovine TB which is spreading through their herds, forcing them to slaughter valuable cattle.”
Tom Howe, a 19-year-old medical student whose father owns the shop, has listned as the cull became one of the heated topics of conversation in the village over the past few weeks.
“I appreciate the protesters believe in what they are doing, trying to disrupt the cull, but if a disease like this was effecting their livelihood I’m sure they would be demanding something be done about it,” he said. “If there were other methods to use then fine, but at the moment culling is the most widely agreed way to reduce bovine TB.”
Nowhere has the debate between those for and against the cull been more heated than in the nearby village of Withycombe, where one resident went as far as putting a poster on her garden gate slandering one of her neighbors for participating in the cull.Meg Sunningdale, 66, named the farmer and accused him of being one of the marksmen contracted to carry out the cull.
She has since taken down the poster, after being warned by Somerset police it could constitute a case of harassment.
“Perhaps it wasn’t very wise of me,” said Mrs Sunningdale. “But this is something I feel very strongly about and feelings are running very high. I have badgers who come into my garden at night and I do not want them shot.
The problem for those opposed say there is no conclusive evidence that the badgers are even responsible for the spread of Bovine TB. One report stated that the cull would only be about 16% effective.
Mrs. Sunningdale milked and looked after a herd of cows for several years in the 1970s, after studying agriculture at college. She blames the rapid spread of bovine TB across the West Country in the past 15 years on intensive farming methods, which she says have weakened the immune system of cattle.
For their part, farmers blame the decision by the 1997 Labour government to scrap regular badger culls for the explosion in levels of the disease.
Bill Carroway, a retired estate worker said, “Over in Ireland they’ve had a badger cull for 10 years and the bovine TB has gone down. We haven’t got a proper vaccine against TB and we won’t have one for 10 years. In the meantime something has to be done.”
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