• DAY 379: BADGER CULL FAILS SO THEY EXTEND BADGER CULL

    Oct 09 2013
    The time is up - after a self-imposed six weeks the cull has failed to reach the required numnbers of badgers to be judged effective. So the government is going to extend it. Fair?

    The time is up – after a self-imposed six weeks the cull has failed to reach the required numnbers of badgers to be judged effective. So the government is going to extend it. Fair?

    The badger cull has officially ended. It has failed to meet its target.

    After six weeks of shooting the government has been unable to kill the number of badgers they said was needed to be sure the cull was effective in the time they said was required to be sure it was efficient.

    So they are applying to extend the period AND they are claiming they should lower their target.

    Hang on a minute…..

    Now I know how Alex Ferguson felt when the referee wouldn’t blow the whistle. If someone can explain to me why this isn’t making up the rules of a game as you play it please write to me.

    I have, as yet on this year, not felt as angry by politics as I have today. What a load of dunces.

    If you remember, the government wanted to kill 70% of the badgers in the Somerset cull zone, representing over 2000 badgers, to be sure they would wipe out enough of the supposed TB threat without killing the whole population (as that would not be nice).

    They have killed 850, around 40% of their target. This is terrible news but also good news. The protests have worked, the shooting has failed, many badgers have been saved.

    The reason for the six week limit was to stop the ‘peturbation effect’. If you kill over a long period the badgers flee and spread any bTB further, making the shooting counter-productive.

    Now they want another three weeks.

    This quote from the original DEFRA site :

    Defra has taken advice from a group of independent scientists and they advised that limiting culling to a period of up to 6 weeks would be likely to reduce any adverse effects of non-simultaneous culling.

    After culling in the pilot areas has finished, we will need to evaluate the results of the monitoring in order to take a decision on whether further licences can be considered.

    Sorry…. DEFRA have ‘taken advice’ from scientists?

    What about advice from the 10 year, £50 million independent scientific study that concluded  that  the cull would not work and that it was ‘crazy’ (Lord Krebs himself, the eminent scientist in charge)???

    DEFRA have now said – which is very handy for their shooters – that they think there are less badgers in the area than originally thought. Which means it will be easier to judge their cull a success.

    OK…so they have failed to judge the number of badgers, failed to kill the required amount in the required time and failed to listen to the science. Oh go on, have another try.

    This is like playing football with a mean older brother. He trips over his own shoe laces on the half way line, claims he should have a penalty, fails to score (depsite his younger brother being keeper and only 2 years old) and then demands another penalty because he saw a badger moving behind the goal.

    IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT.

    On top of this the government are refusing to declare how many of the dead badgers had bTB. It would be quite nice to know, and surely very informative to know,  that at least some of the badgers killed had the disease that was supposedly  causing the cattle problems.

    Amazingly, when Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was asked if he had “moved the goalposts” by claiming the cull was a success he responded:

    “The badgers moved the goalposts. We’re dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of the weather and disease and breeding patterns.”

    Really? You didn’t know badgers were wild. You didn’t account for ‘weather’? Or even disease – when that is what you are trying to manage? How long can he avoid admitting he was told to do this by Uncle David and Uncle David was told to do this by the National Farmer’s Union and the National Farmer’s Union were told to do it by their farmers who want a knee-jerk reaction to a  problem that can be solved in FAR better ways.

    Don’t let this continue. Write to your MP to express your views. 

    Simply ask what they are going to do about it. And if they say it’s a fair cull, pass them on to me.

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  • DAY 378 (over-running): INTERVIEWING A TORY AND A LABOUR POLITICIAN ABOUT THE BADGER CULL

    Oct 08 2013
    The parliamentary process - more open than I thought, but also much more muddy than I hoped.

    The parliamentary process – more open than I thought, but also much more muddy than I hoped.

    This year has been a political awakening for me. Perhaps I should have stayed asleep.

    I have visited parliament to lobby poltiicians about badgers, I have visited to watch politicans debate badgers and to march outside the gates about badgers. From political virgin to political hoare.

    But parliament has both impressed and disappointed in equal measure. The spires are as tall and dreaming as the rooms inside dusty and cavernous.

    On the one hand the debates and the politicians are far more open than you might imagine. You really CAN go and badger your politician and they really will listen. After all you can tell your friends not to vote for them.

    On the other hand the political process surrounding the debate over the badger cull stinks of cow shit – good science is covered in a layer of political muck in which cynicism gorws and flies linger – and I wonder how much this reflects the wider political process, especially regarding animal welfare.

    How much can a person help animals by getting political?

    Yes – you can speak to your MPs, yes – you can go on marches but does it make any difference to a badger, cow or a pig awaiting a painful death?

    I have interviewed two MPs about the badger cull from both sides of the house to get a clearer view of what politicians can – and want to do – about animals.

    Huw Irranca-Davies MP

    Huw Irranca-Davies MP

    Huw Irranca Davies is the Labour minister who stood up to debate the case against the cull. He was impressive and eloquent but Labour were never going to win – the debate was triple whipped (people were advised to vote with their party).

    Tracey Crouch is the eminently brave Conservative MP who was one of the few lone voices on the other side of the chamber to also decry the cull. I imagine her triple whipping was particularly painful.

    Tracey Crouch MP - one of the few conservatives to stand up against the cull. She has since not been spoken to by some of her colleagues.

    Tracey Crouch MP – one of the few conservatives to stand up against the cull. She has since not been spoken to by some of her colleagues.

    It’s important to say that both MPs were suprisingly human. I don’t know what I expected of politicians but I vaguely thought most lived inside television boxes. They were full size persons, warm and straight forward. I could easily imagine either of them of tripping over a stick.

    But both painted a picture that was, for me, a fairly depressing portrayal of the parliamentary process.

    Both admitted that the National Farmers Union (the NFU) had a powerful influence in government (of course they do) both admitted that science was often secondary to politicans and both admitted, most shockingly of all, that many, many politicians were simply ignorant of the facts.

    This angered me. But it rang true. At one point in an early debate a conservative MP claimed that bTB would not be spread by badgers in the cull zone because it was bounded by a river and a motorway. No one told him that badgers can swim and corss roads.

    It only took me 20 minutes to get my head round the basic science of the matter. Surely a politician could spare that? Especially since they spent £50 million and 10 years on the Krebs trial to assess the viability of the badger cull

    Boris Johnson.

    Boris Johnson.

    Tracey said that often that MPs couldn’t spare the time. ‘This place churns out information. The sheer number of emails we get means we don’t’ have time to go into everything in depth. Your’e fed a line and you vote on that and you have to make a decision very quickly’

    Huw concurred:  ‘If there was competing demands on a Monday morning for  an urgent discussion about something – then I suspect the turtles in the Cayman islands would fall behind the  question about the HS2 railway’

    Understandable if unacceptable. The power to make decisions that affects the lives of thousands of animals rests in the hand of MPs some of whom haven’t the time – or inclination – to find out the basic facts.

    But what made Tracey different?

    ‘I’m lucky. I don’t have a family, so I have time to read through those documents late on a Sunday night. Other people don’t.’

    Owen Paterson - the minister in charge of the cull

    Owen Paterson – the minister in charge of the cull

    But surely Owen Patterson, the man in charge of the cull, understands the science?

    Yes, he does, admitted Tracey, but he was simply not ‘open minded enough’ to see the full argument. ‘You see what you want to see’. A fairly damning comment from within the same party.

    And what influence does that leave the member of the public with?

    Both MP’s were suprisingly positive about this. Apparently the lowly act of writing to your MP really does make a difference.

    ‘If a hundred people write to their MP’ said Tracey ‘that will make them look up. Since that vote [on the badger cull] I’ve spoken to a number of colleagues who have changed their mind. They’ve been asked questions by their consituents and then they ask their minister and if they get an unsastifactory answer they think again’

    So there you have it. Parliament is a busy, inefficient place that sometimes fails good science because of those that are too busy to care. But YOU can make a difference.  Write to your MP, especially if they are Conservative,  and kick up a fuss.

    Click here to find your local MP.

    Speak to your MP.

    Speak to your MP.

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  • DAY 373 (over-running): DID I KILL A COW WITH MY THERMOS?

    Oct 07 2013

    badger-2_2653801b

    At midnight I set out in a 4×4 to look for more badger shooting with one of the key activists in the anti-badger cull movement. He is known simply as Jay. Two others join us as well.

    Jay is tall, slender, dry-humoured and charismatic in a way I can’t figure out.  He has spearheaded much of the anti-cull movement but wears his experience lightly.

    ‘Are you the leader of all this?’ I ask

    ‘The spokesperson I suppose. Not the leader. Hierarchies get very very messy. People do their own thing around here.’ He pulls a large black hood over his head as we drive out of the camp . ‘If we get stopped by the police only the driver needs to speak. We are doing nothing wrong’

    stop the cull

    Life in prison

    But Jay has done things wrong – at least in the eyes of the police. He has been in jail twice for activism – once for rescuing a beagle from scientific research and once for blocking a motorway  to make an animal rights protest. At the latter event another activist almost died and it led him to drop his protesting for a while. The incident was not Jay’s fault but it affected him deeply.

    He is clearly not the aggressive knee-jerk militant  people might assume. Although the dark hoodie doesn’t help.

    ‘I’ve been to boarding school, I’ve been in the army and I’ve been in prison. Prison was the easiest of all of them. In boarding school you wonder ‘why has someone put me here?’ In the army you wonder ‘why have I put myself here?’. In prison it’s a clear choice’

    I’m impressed by this in a way I shouldn’t tell my wife. The deeper I go into the horror of the misery we inflict upon animals the more reasonable it seems to take actions that  go against laws described by people who probably don’t hold animals in moral regard.

    Beagles being rescued from animal testing.

    Beagles being rescued from animal testing.

    ‘I’m prepared to go to prison for a year’ says Jay. ‘If you aren’t prepared to do that then you are hampered. You can only be so effective’. I ponder this for a while. The driver puts a deep melodic rap  on the sound system and the mood seems to plunge into a dark intensity.

    A short while later we drop Jay at another location where he will stay on lookout on the road in the darkness and we continue.

    Shooting convoy

    As we turn down a small lane a green landrover pulls out in front of us

    ‘Follow that!’ says one of the activists. Then another landrover  pulls out behind us too. ‘Jesus, we are in a convoy!’  I assume this is a BAD thing and want to panic but apparently it is GOOD. In the darkness, each driver may think we are the other and so show us their shoot location.

    The convoy snakes through ever narrowing lanes until the driver in front realises what is happening and speeds up. We race to keep up with him until he turns sharply into a farm lane. We come to a sharp stop and before I can work out what is happening one of the activists then jumps out carrying heavy duty locks. There are two farm gates at the start of the farm and he pulls them closed and  padlocks them shut. The landrovers the turn around and come back.

    Surely we should leave?  The activist stands his ground and shines a torch directly at them. For a moment the landrovers face us and we face them. Then they turn away. They are  locked into their location and we message others to come down and sab any shooting.  ‘They won’t be going anywhere tonight”

    ‘Let’s get out of here’ says our driver quickly. In the rush I  drop my bag which contains a  thermosflask full of coffee and it smashes over my expensive fleece inside. I throw the thermos flask into a bush.

    ‘Let’s go, but don’t leave any evidence’

    Oh crap, my thermos. It must have my fingerprints on it! I quickly run into the bush. It’s hot and soaking. What do I do with it? I take a run and lob it in a field of cows – as if that will somehow exonerate me.

    SOMERSET NEWS: BADGER CULL TAKES NOSEDIVE AS PROTESTER KILLS COW WITH THERMOS FLASK.

    We drive off at high speed and pick up Jay.

     

    _62842805_badger_reuters

    Did we save any badgers?

    Who knows – probably not.

    But then again if everyone did as Jay and the other activists are doing, if everyone was out in the hills keeping an eye on the unscrupulous shooting/trapping it would be IMPOSSIBLE to kill many badgers. The dedication of the activists is vital

    And now it seems that the badger cull might well fail and leave unorganic egg all over ministers’ faces.

    And talking of ministers and bravery…in my next blog I’ll report my trip to parliament and my visit to one Conservative who stood up against her own party to say the badger cull was wrong. Not so easy.

    How much political integrity is behind the badger cull?

    Can we rely on politicians to push forward animal rights in any way at all? (and seriously, I’ m NOT knee-jerk anti politicians at all)

    Will the badger cull fail because of Jay and his merry vegans? If it does we could be talking tens of thousands of badgers saved. RESULT.

     

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  • DAY 370 (over-running!): INTO THE FOREST OF CONFUSION WITH A DOMINATRIX

    Oct 03 2013

    night_sky

    It’s fitting that the badger cull is being played out in the dark of night because not an awful lot of people seem to know what is going on.

    The police hang around in carparks not entirely sure who is an activist and who is out for a drink, the badger cullers have no clear idea of the exact population count of those pesky black and white things and the activists, for all their dedication, don’t really know where the shooting is happening.

    But no one must be more confused than the badgers. Out they go for a worm and bang! they’re dead. It’s all painless though, so not to worry.

    I’m down in Somerset, sleeping in a tent by day (sweaty) and snooping through cull zone woods by night with a pair of children’s night vision googles.  I live off rice cakes and minimal dairy products – not out of conviction but because I’m  nervous of being ousted by the other vegans in ‘Camp Badger’. Apparently someone was kicked out  because they came in eating a bacon sandwich. It may be hearsay but I wear my leather belt close to my chest – just like Simon Cowell.

    Dominatrix

    The activists are a colourful and very friendly bunch from varying backgrounds. On my first night I find myself in a car with a number of females, one who is a recovering heroin addict, another who is a computer sales person by the day and a dominatrix by night. She is very gentle and polite.

    Her phone beeps occasionally. ‘Wank tax’ she explains. One of her clients pays her phone credit every time he masturbates.

    Vegan porn

    Vegan porn

     

    ‘Do you force them to do stuff?’

    ‘Of course!  I’ve forced one to go vegetarian.  He’s lost 2 stone and loving it. He sends me photos of the cheese counter at Tesco’s and calls it ‘Vegan Porn”

    This is one way to convert the world. Should my book fail to be published I can always get out the whip. Not leather of course.

     

    Strange beauty

    It’s an odd experience because at night everywhere in the cull zone is silent, dark and undeniably romantic. Glades, streams, forested hills glisten in moonlight.

    This is not an obvious battle ground.

    But the ‘shooters’ use infra red and silencers. Which is frankly not fair. The protestors use waterproof maps, marker pens, mobile phones and  dedication.  Police vehicles are everywhere. They are apparently  ‘independent’, here to protect both sides, but there is a strong sense in the camp that they are against the protestors.

    ‘Someone in this camp is a police officer in disguise! ‘  shouts one person at Camp Badger when I arrive. ‘It’s bloody obvious’.

    Am I the police officer?

    As the sun goes down at the end of the day the badgers begin to stir - some woods in Somerset full of badger setts

    As the sun goes down at the end of the day the badgers begin to stir – some woods in Somerset full of badger setts

     

    Camp Badger resides in an umarked field hidden at the end of winding lanes and looks like a small eco-festival that has been abandoned by the musicians – tents are sprawled across a fields, fires are smoldering, it’s rather silent. This is the HQ of operations – but there are less people here than I would have thought.

    The strategy is disruption.

    If shooting is discovered then high pitched whistles are sounded. By law, shooters cannot fire if people are present. If badger traps are found they are dismantled, if active badger setts (homes) are found they are watched over ta night by someone who is prepared to get wet and sodden.

    Despite the confusion, the dedication of the ‘sabs’ seems to be paying off. Protestors have stopped shoots, cages have been dismantled and reports are coming in that the government has shot only hundreds, not thousands of badgers.

    People can be divided into two groups: the law-abiding and the not-so-law-abiding, generally along older/middleclass and younger/left-wing lines. The former go on long walks in big groups with high viz jackets looking for injured badgers. They come back at midnight. The latter go out in smaller groups to ‘sab’ and disrupt activity. They dress in dark clothing and walk through private woods and come back at 5am.

    On the first night I go for long walks and drive around with my female companions. Not a badger in sight. I feel very much like I belong to the first group. But on the next night it is much, much more adventurous. I join the sabs….

     

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  • DAY 368 – DARK NIGHTS HUNTING BADGER HUNTERS

    Oct 01 2013
    A pretty picture of dark woods not taken by me. But I was in some a little like this being really brave

    A pretty picture of dark woods not taken by me. But I was in some a little like this being really brave

    As my blog plunges deeper into the caverns of animal abuse I end up with less and less photos – which might be just as well.

    I’m due shortly to continue my journey following the life of typical EU pig but I have had to take a few days out to help with the fight against the badger cull.

    I can’t show an awful lot of imagery because I have mostly been crawling through dark woods trying not to be seen by men who have guns  – or the police – and because the people I am with don’t want to be identified. 

    I am ashamed to report that I’ve found all this terribly exciting. Maybe it’s because I was too soft at school.

    I hope you all now know that I’m over running by a month. “one point one years to help animals” don’t sound so good I know but I have my excuses.

    A-sign-outside-Camp-Badger-near-Watchet-in-Somerset-2226202

    Killing badgers in the dark with guns from a long distance without hurting them.

    The badger cull is coming to the end of it’s hugely controversial six weeks. As you probably know, the point of this cull is not to determine if culling badgers helps stop cattle get TB (scientists have said that on the whole it does not)  but to prove whether culling badgers can be done safely, effectively and humanely.

    In other words can you kill shit loads of badgers at night with big guns without killing any humans – or in fact hurting any badgers?

    Which is a really, really weird sort of government test.

    Although the government is not reporting figures it seems from various accounts that the cull is failing. Not enough badgers are being shot and this may make the potential spread of TB worse because the surviving badgers flee the scene and take what little TB they have with them.

    Over the last few weeks I’ve  been into parliament to talk to MPs on both sides of the house and its fairly shocking what they have to say. That is coming up in the next few blogs. But what I’m really interested in knowing is

    a) How do you stop a badger cull happening?

    b) Can I save any badgers myself?

    I went down to ‘Camp Badger’ in the heart of the Somerset cull zone to find out.

    photo 1

    I am equipped to fight an invisible enemy

    It is in the governments interest that not many people know how and where the badger cull is taking place. Men in dark clothes are firing guns in secret locations with silencers. Which might explain why I had no idea what to expect or how to prepare for my few days and nights fighting the cull.

    I looked at various blogs and facebook posts and decided I ought at least to get the following:

    1. A high pitched whistle – in case someone was shooting me and I needed to let the world know.  But since bullets travel faster than sound I wasn’t sure if it would be useful
    2. A very f**cking powerful torch. 
    3. Some waterproof maps. 
    4. Night vision infra-red googles.  Tragically I could only afford the plastic ones designed for 10 year olds. On the packaging they showed a boy looking for another boy in a shed at night and worked for up to 30 feet.
    5. Dark clothes.
    6. Minimal leather and lots of soya milk To prove my activist credentials

    photo 2

    And with this in my bag I headed down to the heart of the cull zone to spend my nights fighting an invisible enemy. I can tell you now that the night vision goggles were a total disaster but the rest of the experience was more dramatic than I could have expected.

     

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  • DAY 335: OH BUGGER, THEY’VE STARTED RANDOMLY SHOOTING BRITAIN’S MOST ICONIC ANIMAL

    Aug 28 2013
    Keep your head down!!! The badger cull started earlier this week. Around 5000 badgers will be killed in Somerset and Gloucestershire in an attempt to prove that this can done humanely and efficiently as a viable way of controlling bTB in cows. BULLOCKS.

    Keep your head down. The badger cull started earlier this week. Around 5000 badgers will be killed in Somerset and Gloucestershire in an attempt to prove that this can done humanely and efficiently as a viable way of controlling bTB in cows. BULLOCKS.

    I’m becoming scared of myself. I’m slowly but surely turning into the sort of person I never thought I’d be. Angry, confused, political, opinionated. How repellent. The badger cull has started and so has my ire.

    On Monday eve marksmen went  into the Somerset night with various guns (anything other than a water pistol will suffice) and  started shooting the first of five thousand badgers, Britain’s sometime ‘protected’ species. The shooting will continue for up to six weeks. Many badgers will die immediately, but some slowly of organ failure or infection. Shooting a badger at up to 70m in darkness doesn’t guarantee a clear hit and the chance of a miserable slow death are high.

    Protesters have mobilised. Many are patrolling the area looking for wounded badgers, others are taking more direct action against the cull

    Protesters have mobilised. Many are patrolling the area looking for wounded badgers, others are taking more direct action against the cull

    A scientific debate?

    The debate about killing these creatures has not, as you might think, been about whether cute, fluffy creatures deserve a right to life. Most animal rights people know that really important arguments don’t get your far in the public sphere. It’s been about the fact that top independent scientists, having spent years of the government’s money and time, have come to the conclusion that the badger cull is pointless and that other alternatives are available (vaccination, bio-security, cattle movement, EU regulations…)

    The aim, as you must know by now, is to try and stop bovine tuberculosis in cows, a problem that all sides agree has devastated farmers. The belief is that since badger can infect cows we must kill the badgers to protect the cows. The problem is that all the science suggests this isn’t a full or even adequate solution and in many scenarios might make the matter worse.

    And don’t forget: this is only a relatively ‘small’ test area designed NOT to establish whether culling helps stop bTB in cows but whether the killing of badgers can be effective and humane. Shooting in the dark at 7om? hmmm.

    I’ve been to Parliament, I’ve witnessed the pointless debate in the house of commons, and I’ve recently interviewed a top MP about all this which I will write about shortly. I’m currently out of the country (more on this soon) but as soon as I am back I will have to temporarily interrupt my pig work to get back to helping the badgers.  This means the ‘year to help’ may be a ‘year and a bit to help’ but I’m sure you’ll forgive me.

    badger-2_2653801b

    And by the way if you think this means I”m not concerned or devastated that children and other civilians are being gassed alive in Syria then think again. So many people assume a compassion for animals means less compassion for humans. But the heart is not a wallet it is a muscle. Compassion for animals has only heightened my concern for all fleshy things that have a beating heart…and strangely it has got me more in touch with my own.

    My solution?

    Why not send the badger marksmen to fight with the rebels in Syria, go give Assad tuberculosis and stick him in hole, milk the Syrian government for all its money to give to…er..badgers in Britain.

    ME FOR PRESIDENT.

    WANT TO HELP THE BADGERS?

    PLEASE GIVE MONEY TO SOMERSET AGAINST THE BADGER CULL IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT LOCAL ACTION ON THE GROUND TO TRY AND HELP THE WOUNDED BADGERS AND PROTEST AGAINST THE SHOOTING

    OR IF YOU WANT TO GO DOWN THERE CONTACT ME AND I WILL DIRECT YOU

     

     

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  • DAY 253 – DEPRESSING DAY IN PARLIAMENT AS I GET TRIPLE WHIPPED

    Jun 06 2013

    Here is the only fun thing I saw yesterday. A video by my friends, The Artful Badger. Please share it.

    I went to the debate yesterday at the House of Commons. I was so hoping to report back about how uplifting the parliamentary process really was…

    But no. 

    My MP never showed up, the debate – watched from behind thick glass – was hollow and we lost the vote against the cull by 299 v 250.

    Does this mean the majority or politicians are in favour of the cull? Does it, my arse.

    parliament

    Confusing!

    As I cycled in to parliament a large van swerved across my path and knocked me into the gutter. As it drove off I read the sign on its back ‘AMBULANCE – Caring for you’.  When I arrived at Parliament square I found myself in a haze of marijuana smoke – some brave person was enjoying themselves nearby.

    We live in a confusing world of conflicting values. The badger cull is no different.

    The grand spires of parliament promise a certain authenticity: upright, powerful, historical.  Barriers and police guard the debating halls as if they hold treasure . And yet, at the heart of all this is a government that appears to both be ignoring science, public opinion and the majority of MP’s (see last october’s vote).

    What is going on?

     

    Child politician

    As I sat inside the main lobby waiting to get into the debate, a badger-type person (black and white clothing, leftish looking) sighed  ‘it’s a triple-whip, we’ll never win’.

    If, like me, you think ‘triple whip’ is something they do at expensive private schools then you will tend to ask the person next to you what it means – who happened to be a twelve year old, wearing brogues and a tweed jacket and glasses. He looked way more intelligent than me and I bet he’ll be prime minister next

    ‘It means that the party whip puts three lines underneath the debate on the paper – which basically means that everyone has to vote according to  the party line or they lose their jobs’

    Nice.

     

    commons

    House of commons

     

    Debate hall

    I watched the debate from up on high, seated behind glass walls to stop me throwing eggs and flower at people. I was not allowed to take my phone so could not play tetris and I was told off for clapping when an anti-cullist spoke. The conservatives were on one side – slightly heavier, better suits, posher voices – the labour on the right – scragglier, more women, northern. All terribly true to type.

    God, it was depressing. The debate was like a ping-pong match where an invisible sheet of glass is inserted into the centre of the table.  Neither sides ball got through to the other side. The labour lot ALL thought the cull was inhumane, too expensive and against science. The conservatives all thought not doing the cull was inhumane, too expensive and against science. (amazingly, Daniel Kawczynski, another Tory from a mainly rural constituancy, thought that killing badgers would be good for badgers and that no one more than him wanted to see a healthy badger population. What?)

    How can both sides have science on their side? The MPs were smart, articulate, seemingly logical people – so why did they disagree so neatly?

    This was not about science. This was about politics and politics won the day.

    Tracy Crouch MP - blue badger. Tory MP who had the strength to vote against the cull.

    Tracy Crouch MP – blue badger. Tory MP who had the strength to vote against the cull.

     

    The person who impressed me most was Tracy Crouch – a conservative MP who stood up and said how daunting it was to go against party policy but that she simply could not vote in favour of the cull. A brave brave woman that got a rapturous, if illegal, applause from the public.

    But now?

    The only ones who will get a proper triple whipping are the badgers. Let’s hope that ten year old grows up quick to lead the country some place new.

    Sad, sad day.

     

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  • DAY 247: BRILLIANT BADGER MARCH – DID I BREAK BRIAN MAY’S GUITAR FINGER?

    Jun 02 2013
    Bill Oddie looking decidedly weirded out by my presence. I thought my badger mask was terrific.

    Bill Oddie looking decidedly weirded out by my presence. I thought my badger mask was terrific.

    The badger march took place in central London yesterday amid much sun and support. It was my first EVER march on account of never really having cared enough about any issues at all. I even met a few celebrities – almost all of whom seemed to take a distaste to me.

    I finally met Brian May along with his impressive hair. I was so excited by his badger credentials that I shook his hand very firmly – he reeled back in pain shaking his guitar finger and now I’m going to be sued.

    Brian May (centre). The inspirational figure head of the anti-cull campaign

    Brian May (centre). The inspirational figure head of the anti-cull campaign

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    Bill Oddie- the naturalist off of the TV – looked so upset to me I can’t believe it.

    I held a banner, I wore face paint, I shouted something and I stood next to a man that played the badger song ‘badger badger badger badger badger’ that was so repetitive and loud I was whipped into a shamanistic frenzy. Now I understand why those students threw fridges from the tops of the buildings or whatever they did ‘Badger , badger, badger!!’ Powerful stuff.

    Thousands of people turned up in support of the anti-cull march

    Thousands of people turned up in support of the anti-cull march

    But really… it was genuinely touching to see so many like minded people who were on the side of science and sense. A great day out.

    Unfortunately we were routed away from the BNP fascist march that happened to be taking place at the same time and who were no-doubt politely asking to have England back …by hitting people. Sixty of them got arrested. There was a brief moment after the mach when a small group of badgers stood outside parliament beside some BNP supporters next to some people opposing something else – guantanmo bay I think – and for a moment I imagined a fascist in an orange suit asking the badgers to go back to their own country.

    But no.

    Well done all who came along. A great day. Please write to your MP for the wednesay parliamentary debate urging them to oppose the cull.

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    The best badger costumes of all

    The best badger costumes of all

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  • DAY 234: IN THE UK- I KISSED A MAN-BADGER OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT AFTER DYING ON THE TUBE

    May 21 2013
    Against the Cull. That's me at the back, a supposedly dead badger on the London underground.

    Against the Cull. That’s me at the back, a supposedly dead badger on the London underground.

    I’ll be brief because I’m exhausted. 

    I’ve just come back from pretending to die on the underground dressed as a badger.

    I’ve been doing this with members of Network for Animals and a performance group called Artful Badger in protest at the upcoming badger cull in the UK. I ended up kissing another man-badger in front of an anti-gay marriage protest outside parliament (see video below). It’s always good to tackle two issues at once.

    Just walking past some dead badgers - a typical Londoner fails to notice the badly dressed 6'4" badger (AKA me) lying at his feet.

    Just walking past some dead badgers – a typical Londoner fails to notice the badly dressed 6’4″ badger (AKA me) lying at his feet.

    more death on the tube

    more death on the tube

    As some of you may know, on the 1st of June the government in the UK plans to go ahead with a highly controversial cull which will see thousands of our black and white fury friends shot dead around the west of the country in an attempt to control the severe rate of tuberculosis (TB) in cows. The idea stinks. Not only will it result in huge death and suffering for the badgers but multiple top independent scientists have agreed it will likely do little for the cows and might actually make it worse.

    I’ll go into this in more detail later but this has awoken me from my political slumber. I only voted in the last election because I wanted to see if I could mark  the paper with an X whilst closing my eyes. And I’ve never understood why people get angry at politicians – it’s not a job I would want so I’m unwilling to throw any rotten tomatoes. But now I understand what motivates protests and marches.

     

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    Dead at Waterloo

    Dead at Waterloo

    Not only has the idea of the cull been opposed by a majority of MPs in a non-binding vote last Autumn but its also goes massively against public opinion. I don’t understand where the democracy bit fits in.  I’ve looked at the arguments closely and it seems the ONLY reason the coalition could be doing this is to keep the National Farmers Union happy by taking some sort of action – however badly – rather than doing nothing.

    So in protest I joined Network for Animals and the wonderful performance group, Artful Badger and went ‘underground to die’. Sort of. It’s artistic licence innit. The point is that when people shoot the badgers its highly likely that many badgers will not be killed immediately and retreat to their setts to die a slow death underground.

    At the end of the day, when we saw a large group of people protesting about gay marriage outside parliament we thought we steal their limelight for a moment by kissing same-sex infront of the cameras. The christians went crazy at us with one man saying that gays die much younger.

    Weirdly I look like I’m totally and utterly drunk, which I am not. Kind of weird. But worth it for the badgers I suppose.

    WRITE TO DEFRA TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE BADGER CULL HERE

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