The English are, generally speaking, a fairly genteel group of people. Hunting in England is now relatively uncommon, with fox hunting (very controversially) legislated against in 2007. Even owning a gun is rather unusual and involves a long and highly regulated process. I definitely noticed a huge contrast when I first moved here – during hunting season deer carcasses are routinely hung up to drain in the front garden of a house less than a mile away from mine (side note: I feel, with almost complete conviction, the house is not within the jurisdiction of any home owners association).
Given this, it has been somewhat controversially announced that the government is planning a cull of badgers, one of England’s more beloved woodland creatures. These creatures are a protected species. Badger watching is even a hobby for some people, which is quite difficult as they are rather shy.
The basis for the consideration of the cull is that badgers are contributing to a widespread outbreak of bovine tuberculosis. This is because badgers can become infected with tuberculosis, which can then be spread to cattle. The epidemic has so far cost the country £90 million (approximately US $147 million) and resulted in the slaughter of over 25,000 cattle in 2010. The government predicts that it could cost the country £1 billion (approximately US $1.6 billion) and there are obviously sensitivities over such epidemics, with ‘mad cow disease’ still being so recent in the nations collective memory. (Another side note: that outbreak has prevented me, and any other person who resided in the U.K. during a certain time frame, from donating blood in the U.S. There is nothing quite like being told I can’t donate blood because I may have a terrible brain wasting disease lying dormant just waiting to emerge).
The government has proposed in its Bovine TB Eradication Programme that it is ‘strongly minded’ to allow a cull of badgers to prevent the spread of this disease. This cull would allow landowners and groups of farmers that have been issued with badger control licenses under the Protection of Badgers Act to “carry out science-led, strictly controlled culls of badgers in the areas worst affected by TB.” A consultation is still ongoing regarding how the cull should be implemented and enforced.