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It’s environmentally, commercially and humanely the right thing to do

My Times article on badger culling:


If Theresa May is happy to see a return of foxhunting, she must be consistent and face down the misguided animal welfare lobby with a pledge to cull more badgers. There are three reasons that a continuing, wider and bigger badger cull is the right thing to do for humane, as well as financial and environmental, reasons.

First, badger culls work. They worked in Ireland, where bovine tuberculosis has been largely eliminated. Recent badger culls in Britain, though apparently designed by timid bureaucrats to fail and thereby frighten off politicians, have almost certainly been a success, resulting in a big drop in tuberculosis among cattle. True, the government has been slow to publish this officially — the data are working their way through the scientific journals — but the anecdotal evidence is now strong.

Farmers say that dozens of farms in the cull zones that had been closed down by TB for decades are now going clear, while a few farms that refused to take part in the cull are going down with TB again. Remember this disease has caused suffering among not just cattle but badgers, other wildlife and — emotionally and commercially — farmers themselves.

Second, a wider badger cull would save the hedgehog. Any rise in badgers is by far the most reliable predictor of the disappearance of hedgehogs. Badgers are now invading suburbs, the last refuge of the hedgehog. Controlling badger numbers is the best way to bring hedgehogs back to the countryside. Likewise, bumble bees would benefit — badgers are their biggest enemies.

Third, human beings should not shirk their duty as the apex predator. Having long got rid of the wolf and the lynx, people have unleashed middle-ranking “meso-predators” such as badgers and foxes to reach unnatural densities with devastating effects on other species. To restore an ecological balance, they need to control the numbers of these animals.

We recognise this need with foxes, stoats, weasels, gulls, cormorants, magpies and crows, all of which are clled by conservationists under licence for the benefit of lapwings, curlews, songbirds, hares, fish and the environment in general. There is no conceivable reason we should not do the same with badgers. They were granted protection for conservation reasons, not because they are any more likely to suffer when shot than these other species.

The celebrity-led badger lobby dogmatically insists there be no control, and wages war on the culling policy with propaganda, threats and violence. It does not speak for rural Britain, the vast majority of whose inhabitants know that nature conservation requires balanced management of predators.

By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  rational-optimist  the-times