This time last year I was getting to know Wiltshire. Its Downland and wildlife, especially the Stone-curlew, and its farmland and farmers. I learnt a thing or two from working on farmland and directly with land-managers.
I now only buy organic veg and fruit. Witnessing the vast quantities of chemicals that are sprayed on to our food, at varying stages of growth, converted me to organics for good. Advising land-managers on when was appropriate to manage their Stone-curlew plots was part of my job… And, gave me nightmares. I was asking them to poison the Earth some more. In the name of conservation.
That sly old enemy the wily fox, would often up in conversation, as you can imagine. Farmers shoot them, to save their lambs. Game keepers kill them, to save their game birds. Conservationists sometimes cull them, to save their endangered species. I could rant for hours on why there are supposedly so many foxes in the first place. Without millions of naïve, battery-reared pheasant and grouse to munch on, only the few fittest would survive to breed. But I’ll stop there. What did and always does surprise me is the way some people differentiate between dogs, wolves and foxes. Dogs and wolves are brilliant apparently. Foxes are vermin. I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.
Badgers. Hmm. Now this is where I sat on the fence doing my contemplating for a while. Let us step into different shoes. Try to imagine that you are a farmer. You manage your land accordingly. Always have done. If there are too many pest species, you deal with them. Then some rotten eggs ruin it for everyone. Those rotten eggs have been killing badgers in the most inhumane horrific ways. And the public are (rightly) outraged. So in come the badger protection laws. One day you are in control, treated like an adult, allowed to control predator numbers if they are having an impact on farming systems. The next, you can’t so much as touch a badger sett without breaking the law. Over the next twenty years, you watch their numbers grow, you watch them ruin your farmland, Bovine TB appears to infect ever more cattle in the area, and as badger numbers grow you see increasingly less of other species which they presumably predate on. The untouchables. You resent them. You resent being treated like a child when it comes to badgers. Now I am certainly not condoning the killing of any pest or predatory species. But this is something that farmers do and we need to see things from their eyes to understand their dislike of badgers. How else can we work as a team, to save nature.
Badgers alone are not responsible for the decline in hedgehog, lapwing or any other ground-nesting birds. They are but a tiny part of an ecological man-made disaster.