Political playground

If you’re sitting inside and looking out, what might be there? From one to another it’ll vary. From a little patch nestled in suburbia to a vast open space where the perimeters of your fence don’t cut off the nature around. Wherever though, perhaps you have flowers in bloom being enjoyed by the last odd butterfly, a fruit tree with fruits either ready to go or almost there or maybe hawthorns beginning to fruit so they’re ready in time to provide for those species in search of food on a crispy autumn morning.

Today marks the first day of autumn and I’m delighted. My favourite season, I love it. Next week I’m back to Spurn for some early bird migration action then over the next few weeks, into October, I’m looking forward to seeing the changes on my local patch. Not just the changes in what birds I may see but the behaviour of them and mammals too. Including badgers. At the moment they’re out most of the night away from the sett in search of food, and so they’re prepared for the colder weather when they’ll spend a lot less time above ground and a lot more time below ground in efforts to keep warm. Over recent years I’ve found I always seem to get some interesting footage at this time of the year too as they spend more time closer to the sett.

Those badgers are in safe hands. Well, on safe land. I don’t mean that because I watch them and keep an eye out for them (this does help if they were to be targeted by wildlife criminals) but this land isn’t within any of those ten perimeters where the ineffective slaughter in a bid to control Bovine TB has begun.  So far over the 2013, 2014 and 2015 culls, over 1,600 animals have been killed in Gloucestershire, over 1,500 in Somerset and over 700 in Dorset, which makes a total of almost 4,000. 4,000 too many animals killed yet they continue despite everything. Despite the science, despite the cruelty of the killing and free shooting, and despite the cost which in total sums up to well over £7,000 to shoot one animal. Of tax payers money that is.

‘The science’ is a term thrown around quite a bit by those in opposition, that’s because there’s a lot of core evidence which suggests many different things. Many of the readers to my blog who have followed it from the start will know about my love for badgers due to my multiple posts about them, hours of trail camera footage I’ve shared and much more but this isn’t the only reason why I campaign against the cull. I also do it to oppose our bigoted government whom are letting this ridiculous and injustice torture to take place in the British countryside. A place of retreat and happiness turned into a political playground.

If you condense it down and look at the basics, that includes taking away the ‘cute factor’, it’s a disgrace. Going back, look at the science. The hard science because what’s more reliable? The most recent significant results of a study found Bovine TB isn’t passed on through direct contact between cows and badgers. During their field study, badgers and cattle didn’t come into contact with each other. It is evident most TB is contracted by cattle to cattle contact. The research did find that it could be contracted through contaminated pasture and dung too. This links back to farming practices though, if slurry a farmer spreads over their field includes infected dung then the bacteria is all over another field.

The study, led by Professor Rosie Woodroffe at the Zoological Society London, also found that even when culling cattle and badgers the bacteria can remain on the field for months. Therefore slaughter isn’t the answer, the issue needs to be addressed efficiently. Many have suggested the answer is for DEFRA to take money out of the ineffective cull and put it into educating farmers and improving bio-security on farms. As Wales have done. Bovine TB in Welsh herds is down 14 per cent over the past 12 months, with 94 per cent now TB free and guess what? No badgers have been killed.

Why are more badgers being killed this year then? DEFRA have tripled the number of licenses issued compared to last year. There is a great amount of opposition yet to give the farmers something in efforts to eradicate TB they take us back to what always seems to be the answer within our countryside, kill it. DEFRA, Andrea Leadsom, and the majority of farmers represented by the NFU (and maybe a few more) are obviously content that their ‘strategy’ (AKA slaughter) is and will deliver results. Yet not one animal that has been culled has been tested for TB since the culls began in 2012.

The role out for this year is massive. To reach minimum targets, marksmen are going to have to kill 10,000 badgers between now and the end of November. No one has given any justification for this, yet it’s already taking place. We’re being ripped off and they won’t listen to a word we say. That doesn’t mean we may as well give up because we have to make them listen. They’re not stupid, they know it isn’t going to give them any results, even if they were to wipe out every badger in  England. Why are they robbing us then?

We’ve got the facts though and therefore we’re right. It must end and we’ll win. Please do what you can; whether that’s signing the petition recently set up, support campaigns from the Badger Trust, donate to their cause, take a look at what your local badger group is doing, write to your local MP or anything, it’s worth it.



A follow up: Stafford’s badger celebrations

After the event I helped organise in Stafford that took place last weekend I thought I had better do a follow up post to thank those who came (and helped with organising), celebrate the support we got, and share how well it went. This is only going to be a pretty brief post though as I have a lot of sixth form work that needs finishing for the end of term next week…then the summer – wahey!

The idea of having a march opposing the badger cull and the risk of it spreading to Staffordshire was first brought to the groups attention (The Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group) at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately we had a bit of trouble sorting dates out but then the idea was put forward that the day would mark the end of National Badger Week 2016, which was a brilliant plan!

National Badger Week was a massive success. So well done to all those who helped organise events throughout the week. There was so much taking place around the country from very successful badger watches and coffee mornings to talks and lectures. Lots of money was raised to help The Badger Trust continue with the work they do along with the groups up and down the country, and (just as importantly) a lot of awareness was raised about the badger cull, persecution and to educate members of the public about the badger away from the politics.

There have been many, many marches taking place across the UK over the last few years in an attempt to stop the cull. These events along with the tireless work of individuals out in the field and campaigning hard is without a doubt having a massive impact. Although we haven’t won yet, I’m certain we will one day.

Here in Staffordshire the risk of a cull is unlikely at the moment but if the policy continues it could be dreams come true for those who are pushing for licences. However there are many other factors which are having a dreadful impact on badger welfare. Although badger baiting has been illegal since the 1830s, it still takes place in areas around the UK and we have had cases in Staffordshire too. Some this year in fact. Fortunately the group is extremely lucky to have good relationships with an exceptional wildlife crime force. I must add though; there are many horrific ways we’ve seen badgers being persecuted and killed throughout the UK which aren’t always badger baiting incidences.

I spoke about the protection of badgers in Staffordshire by the group (which has now been running for 30 years) when I stood up in central Stafford and spoke on Saturday afternoon. Not just talking to those who had come to the event but those passing by and coming to see what all the fuss was about. Making the reasons why, what and how we can all stand up for badgers and against the malicious hate some have against them heard. I also made similar points on one of the local radio stations, BBC Radio Stoke, that morning and I also spoke about why culling badgers is not the answer. I will not go into detail about this now as I have in the past, I will in future posts and I really need to get some school work done! However I did get a bit criticised for not mentioning more about the science in my talk. The reason for this was having my talk preceded by Mark Jones and Dominic Dyer who went into a lot of detail about the science and therefore I didn’t feel the need to repeat this again at that time.

Anyhow, you can listen to the radio interview below. It was also brilliant to have others speak in Stafford on Saturday including Dominic Dyer and Peter Martin from The Badger Trust, Mark Jones from Born Free Foundation and Jordi Casamitjana from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). Each spoke passionately, precisely and with rich knowledge about a range of topics from the politics of badgers and work of The Badger Trust to the science behind badgers and BTb and also the history of this species that has lived among our landscape for over a quarter of a million years.

Being me I couldn’t miss a chance to speak out about young people and the future of wildlife and its protection. I was thrilled to be able to do this after being asked to sit on the panel of the previous evenings debate. The conversation of the evening was much more focused on the politics of the badger and also the impact of the recent EU Referendum result. Dominic and Peter both spoke about The Badger Trust’s response, of which has been published this week. This included that after many funds have been cut from leaving the EU, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) should reconsider the extortionate costs of badger culling. You can read this in full by clicking here.

The support at the festival over the weekend was incredible but not surprising.

You can listen to the radio interview here by forwarding to the 1.07 mark – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03yhbk6




You can also listen to the talks from the Saturday here.

Dominic Dyer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbJK18ewuAw

Jordi Casamitjana – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoYhO1ClMsk

Georgia Locock – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I71KiMoIbRY

Mark Jones – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4hDy5lI4MI

Peter Martin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdjzafUSe0o

Over the next few weeks and months I have some really interesting blog posts lined up as I have some exciting projects planned! Also, not forgetting posts in the run up to the cull this year and Hen Harrier Day at the beginning of August.

My worry, my future, but not my choice

My future has been decided but by a seven month gap, I had no say. I had no say on what my future would hold regarding the direction the country I live in will go, and what that will mean and result in.

Above everything the thing I feel the most passionate and now worried about is our natural environment. Everyday I observe it, record it, enjoy it and it brings me such happiness. Going out onto my patch and exploring what’s about; swifts flying high, chiffchaffs singing, buzzards squawking overhead, badgers tumbling over and sneaking over fields at the dead of night. Campaigning and doing whatever I can to give those species that are on the brink or entangled into the poor decisions and disregard of humans; from hen harriers and turtle doves to badgers and foxes. Trying to spread why our natural world is so wonderful and what we can do to help it has just got harder. Harder in a way that we’ve put 70% of UK environmental safeguards at risk, but we need to make sure this isn’t lost. In a world where nature is not a top priority, this is going to be beyond tough but vital for the future of everything simple in our country which brings us life everyday. 

The combination of shock and worry makes this post difficult to write, and I really didn’t think I’d have too. Yet again I was too ignorant to think that as a country we’d vote for a future, and one with peace in mind. No longer are we a continent of unity, which I believe being a member of the EU represented. By the looks of things, we will no longer be a country of unity either as the results have split us a part. When I woke up yesterday morning, I felt numb from the shock. So much so I had to check if Friday had actually happened, it didn’t feel realistic. Fortunately this morning I seem to have come to terms with the matter but still terribly unsure of whats happened. A reason why I feel ‘better’ this morning was after yesterday and the satisfaction I got from speaking my thoughts a loud, effectively getting it off my chest.

It was the launch of National Badger Week at Lush, Oxford Street and I was very privileged to go along and talk. After what had happened in the last 48 hours it wasn’t just badgers I was going to talk about. Regarding the results I spoke about what this could mean for nature as well as the voice of young people. I further discussed this with Dominic Dyer and MP Kerry McCarthy. Both were unsure of what’s to come, and that at the moment there are no answers. Two interesting points were that farmers have lost 65% of there subsides, which came from the EU, meaning due to the extortionate costs of the badger cull it could be put off this year. Not that’s any reason for us to have voted leave as food prices are likely to go up and this will only be short term, but in the mean time it gives us an opportunity to fight against the cull. The point was also made about the high percentage of young people who voted to remain. Obviously when they voted they were looking to the future; their future jobs, future economy, what their country will look like in the future which I believe included the environment. More precisely issues which are growing in awareness such as climate change. Something we need to work together on small and large scales to tackle, and if nothing is done soon enough it will catch up with us in the future. Instead, older populations decided our future.

Based on what has happened already since the results, the uncertainty, and shock, I have never felt so worried. On Friday morning I felt ashamed and embarrassed to be English. Embarrassed by what our neighbours must think and ashamed because of what we’ve lost. We all worry in life; for myself that may be if I’m going to get some homework in on time, whether I’m going to have time to go and put my trail camera at my local badgers sett later, or whether I’ve got the grades I need to get into the University I want and later a job. However I’ve never felt so worried, this decision effects all this and the thing I care about above everything; nature. I know I’m being very bleak at the moment and (I hope) I’m exaggerating what the situation may be. Of course I don’t want a bad outcome for my country. The uncertainty is making it a lot worse though, I feel physically and emotionally exhausted – what’s to come? After all that blabber from the Leave campaign saying we’ll ‘take back control’, well it feels as-though we have no control now.

We had backing and support from the EU, including in relation to the natural world. From nature directives and environmental laws to a community that could work together to fight climate change and work for progress. We’re out on the other side now though and unfortunately it looks bleak. However bad it looks though and perhaps how bad it’s going to get, then the stronger we have to fight and collaborate for the sake of our natural heritage. That’s what I’m going to do, for the sake of wildlife do whatever I can and more. Making sure that its protection continues but also progresses, through increasing species numbers, richer habitats and for it to be safe to thrive and future generations to enjoy.

National Badger Day

In less then two weeks time it will be National Badger Day. It is also halfway through the current six week badger cull. Compare that and it makes you realise how important it is to get the message out  for National Badger Day on the 6th of October.

Not only that but it’s so important that we’re celebrating the badger for the animal that it is, nothing political, which is the exact reason for the day.

It shocks me that some kids don’t even know what a badger is and I’ve even had friends that didn’t even know we have badgers in this country. An animal that is a treasure of our landscape and has been for over 400,000 years. Together with being Britain’s largest land carnivore surely it should be considered and  recognised by all. Along with that, hundreds are being killed in a bid to decrease bTb using the tax-payers money, as well as suffering from horrible acts of persecution.

As I mention though, NBD isn’t about focusing on all the bad things they experience but celebrating and making people aware about the creature it really is. On the back of this innocent, beloved species it carries the stigma of being a nuisance and that it should be eradicated from it’s home. Most would agree that this animal just deserves to be left alone from all the killing.

National Badger Day  is a campaign which is being run by The Badger Trust and closer to the date a video will be released, featuring the likes of Chris Packham, Virginia Mckenna, Steve Backshall and more, to be showcased to primary school kids, groups and at events too. Of which are taking place all around the country. Obviously though it’s going to take your help too, doing your part.

One thing I’ll be doing is giving an assembly and showing the film to year 7 & 8’s at the school I go to sixth form at. If you’re still at school, a teacher, a parent (etc) you could do the same. The video includes talk about the badgers ecology, insights of the species from quite a few familiar faces and much more.

You can also get involved by joining an event, getting the word out on social media, get yourself a National Badger Day badge, getting in touch with your local group or whatever else you can think of. Or if you want to take a hands on approach then why not join and support patrols in the field.

Events – http://www.badgerevents.org.uk/

Video trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6E5sng6juA

The final video is around 10 minutes long.

National Badger Day badge – http://shop.badgertrust.org.uk/en/products/badges-stickers/national-badger-day-badge.aspx

Badger cull patrols – https://georgiaswildlifewatch.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/worry-not-do-more/



Get involved and do something positive for National Badger Day!