EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN MAY: – “WHY MY CANCER SCARE MADE ME DETERMINED TO FIGHT FOR THE BADGERS”
4 February 2014 by Jane Mathews
Rock star Brian May has described how a cancer scare earlier this year has made him more determined to “make a difference for the better”.
Speaking as he launched a badger vaccination funding appeal to try and bring about an end to culling, Mr May said that the uncertainty over his health had made him even more committed to campaigning for animal rights. The Queen guitarist had to have a biopsy for prostate cancer in January, but was later told that no cancer cells had been found.
Speaking about waiting for the results of the tests, he said:
“It does have an effect. You start to look at your own mortality. It’s an odd thing. I didn’t react that emotionally to it. There’s a numbness which takes over when people talk about cancer, and suddenly your future looks uncertain. The fact that I got the all-clear made me feel that I’ve got a reason for being here, to make some more mischief before I shuffle off. I would love to be able to change things and make a difference for the better. That’s the reason why I got involved in the badger vaccination campaign. I would love to see the culling stopped.”
“The fact that I got the all-clear made me feel that I’ve got a reason for being here, to make some more mischief before I shuffle off”
Mr [Dr] May, 66, is raising awareness of the Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative (BACVI), which is fundraising for badger vaccination schemes starting this year in Dorset, Somerset, Gloucester, Devon and Cornwall. The initiative, which was launched today at Portcullis House in London, is hoping to raise £1m to carry out a four-year study on the effectiveness of badger vaccination on reducing bovine TB.
Mr May and other sponsors, including cosmetics company Lush and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, have already pledged £200,000 to the project.
Rock bank Hawkwind have also donated to the cause, and 300,000 people have signed Mr May’s petition to Downing Street demanding a halt to the culling – making it the biggest animal welfare petition in the UK.
According to charity Care for the Wild, the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire cost more than £7m – equivalent to more than £4,000 per badger killed – and BACVI says the cost just of policing the cull was higher than a vaccination project.
BAVCI figures show that vaccination costs around £120 per badger, with costs reducing as more volunteers are found.
Mr May is among those being trained to trap and inject badgers with the vaccine as part of efforts to reduce the costs.
The bill for security came in at £2.4 million in the first year of the four-year pilot – or £1,300 per badger killed.
BACVI is also lobbying for the vaccination of cattle against TB, which is banned under EU law.
Campaigners warn that despite the failure of the pilots to meet even reduced kill targets, ministers are set to press ahead with wider culls.
Professor Rosie Woodruff, speaking at the launch today, said that data from the badger cull trials showed that reactive, randomised culling appeared to actually increase the number of cases of cattle infected with TB.
She said that this is because diseased badgers were more likely to flee their territory and come into contact with other badgers and cattle – an issue which is avoided with vaccination.
Mr May, who has a PhD in astrophysics, said that his scientific background coupled with his ethical beliefs attracted him to the campaign.
“The truth is culling has never been that effective, but vaccination will lead to herd immunity in badgers, which really takes them out of the equation. I don’t believe in randomly killing any species. This is symptomatic of a larger problem, which is the way that we value animals on this planet. The badgers are a part of it – just because they don’t mean money for anyone doesn’t mean that they are not worthy of a decent life. It’s emotive on both sides, but animal welfare is not to do with emotion, we’re talking about a decent moral approach.
“I’m also involved in the science behind it, and unfortunately very few people understand it.
“Some politicians are not very well equipped to understand it, and they must appreciate the difference between theory and evidence. You have very good scientists at Defra who are being asked to find statistics to back up policies, when policies should be informed by impartial science. You would be very hard pushed to find scientists in favour of culling, and these pilot culls have confirmed everyone’s worries that they would not work.
“Vaccination against disease has worked for humans, so anyone who says that it won’t work for badgers is on very shaky ground.”
Mr May also said that he believed the government, which is paying for 10 per cent of the vaccines for the Cornish arm of the project, is starting to show support for the initiative, despite Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s commitment to culling.
He said: “A large number of our supporters are in the Commons and the Conservative Party, and I think there is a movement towards people thinking for themselves, and becoming more and more suspicious of Owen Paterson.”
Asked if he believed the Government could perform a U-turn on culling, he said: “I’m very much hoping that they will. Owen Paterson has nailed his colours to the mast, which is a shame, because the culling is obviously failing, and it’s getting more embarrassing for him. But the Government are supporting our initiative in a small way by supplying some of the vaccines, which is great news.”
TV vet Marc Abraham, who is also supporting the campaign, said: “Vaccination makes much more sense than killing badgers in every way. Culling is ineffective, and a complete waste of life, money and time.”
The BACVI sponsorship page is at http://www.bacvi.co.uk
BRIAN MAY LAUNCHES APPEAL FOR ANTI-BADGER CULL CRUSADE
4 February 2014 by Ben Webster, Environment Editor
May has Brian May, guitarist with the rock group Queen, has launched an appeal to raise funds to vaccinate thousands of badgers as an alternative to culling. He is donating £50,000 of his own money and has persuaded Hawkwind, the rock band, to donate £10,000 from a charity concert taking place later this month.
The appeal on behalf of the Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative comes as Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, prepares to announce whether he will authorise culling in up to 10 more areas this year to help protect cattle from tuberculosis.
Speaking to The Times, May said it would cost only £150 to vaccinate each badger under plans to use volunteers to trap them and administer the vaccine. He said this was far cheaper than culling.
Care for the Wild, a charity opposed to culling, said the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire had cost £4,000 for each badger killed, including the cost of policing and monitoring and the cost to farmers of hiring marksmen.
May accused Mr Paterson of fighting a “crusade for culling” despite evidence that the trials had failed to hit their targets for the minimum number of badgers to be killed to avoid the risk of diseased animals fleeing and spreading TB to other setts.
He said: “Vaccination has been viewed as a soft option and culling as the manly thing to do. [Mr Paterson] has made a commitment to the National Farmers’ Union to support culling but the NFU does not represent all farmers. It’s as if Owen Paterson has his colours nailed to the mast and he can’t possibly take them down. He seems to be fighting a crusade for culling.”
Asked why he was devoting so much of his time and money to protecting badgers, May said: “It’s part of a bigger picture for me. I believe we have our priorities wrong. We have become a species that bases all our decisions on money and there is an assumption that human beings are the only important species on the planet. How can you possibly justify randomly slaughtering thousands of wild animals most of whom are perfectly healthy? It’s quite scandalous that they didn’t even test the badgers that they killed.”
May said vaccination projects were being established in parts of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucester and Somerset, counties with a high incidence of cattle TB infections. He said Mark Constantine, founder of Lush cosmetics, had pledged to fund the vaccination of badgers in Dorset, where a group of farmers is preparing to submit an application for a culling licence.
The appeal, which the organisers said had already received donations of £200,000, will also raise money for work on developing an approved cattle vaccine. May said field testing of cattle vaccination was needed in order to be able to apply for a licence from the European Commission to roll it out.
The Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative said research had shown that vaccinating as little as 30 per cent of a badger population would provide ‘herd immunity’ within five years. A spokesman said: “Vaccination has the massive advantage of preserving stable populations, unlike culling, which, through perturbation, sees badgers migrating to other areas and potentially making the problem worse.”
The National Trust is currently spending about £700 per badger paying professionals to vaccinate the animals on its Killerton estate in Devon. It has said vaccination is too expensive to extend to all its land and has refused to rule out culling.
BRIAN MAY APPEALS FOR FUNDS FOR BADGER VACCINATION PROJECT
4 February 2014 by Alistair Driver
BRIAN May has launched a campaign to raise funds to commence badger vaccination projects across the UK. The musician, who has been at the forefront of the campaigns to halt badger culling in England and Wales, launched the Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative (BACVI), with partner groups, in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning.
The initiative is initially funded by donations of more than £200,000 from Dr May and other groups involved, which include cosmetics company Lush and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), as well as his own Save Me campaign. The group will also appealing for the public to become involved by sponsoring the first vaccination projects current being set up in the areas of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucester and Somerset. The group described BACVI as ‘a new, humane and credible project that will protect badgers from bovine TB, and take them out of the equation as regards bTB in cattle’.
A launch document says the project will help those adopting the initiative to complete a comprehensive survey of their land, the supply and placement of traps, appropriate prebaiting, trapping and ‘vaccination based on a simple cost per badger’. According to the BACVI, each badger vaccine costs £20; every trap £100. Staff time to carry out the baiting of traps and injections is also a ‘significant cost’, but these costs are proposed to be offset through the use of volunteers and ‘Lay Vaccinators’.
The project aims to reach out to sceptical farmers who see culling as a more viable option than vaccination. “You may have considered the cost of trapping and vaccination of badgers to be uncompetitive compared to culling. By using volunteers and charity funding we are able to offer this service at reduced costs,” the document says. It stresses that the project has the necessary experience, equipment, vaccines and trained ‘Lay Vaccinators’ to undertake badger vaccination. It says its approach to the delivery of vaccine to badgers in the wild has been ‘audited and confirmed to be of a high standard by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera)’. C
attle vaccination. The document adds that the project is also keen, ultimately, to support cattle vaccination, which the group believes is ‘ultimately the only real hope of eradicating the disease’, although barriers include the need for field testing in the UK to secure a licence from the European Commission.
Dr May said: “For this launch, we hope all those people genuinely in search of a solution for the bTB problem will put aside their differences to support BACVI. Naturalists, scientists, MP’s, along with many members of Team Badger and the farming community will be participating.” He claimed the contribution to the spread of bovine TB by wildlife was “relatively small, compared with cattle to cattle transfer” but said badger was the “only effective long-term solution” to addressing this means of spread. “Vaccination of cattle is the Holy Grail, and we are pushing for trials on cattle vaccine to be run here. The Government seem to be dragging their heels, and we will endeavour to get them to see this as a priority,” he said. He added that “despite the failure of last year’s pilot culls to achieve their objectives”, the Government is “still preparing to go forward with plans to roll out the culling of badgers throughout the UK”.
Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “This should be coupled with strict control on cattle movements and enhanced cattle protection. By combining cattle based solutions with wildlife vaccination we hope this will stamp out the scourge of bovine TB and protect badgers from needless culls.”
The BACVI sponsorship page is HERE All monies raised will go directly to support vaccination schemes. Farmers throughout the UK are eligible to apply for help in vaccinating their badgers.
BRIAN MAY LAUNCHES BADGER AND CATTLE VACCINATION CAMPAIGN
4 February 2014 by M Manning
Queen guitarist Brian May has launched a nationwide appeal to promote and support vaccination of badgers and cattle as a tool in the fight against bovine TB with project sites earmarked in Dorset and Somerset. D
r May, who has planted a woodland at Shitterton near Bere Regis, was joined by cosmetics company Lush and organisations including the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Save Me, to launch the Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative (BACVI) at the House of Commons on Tuesday.
The campaign aims to win support among farmers to adopt vaccination as an immediate move towards helping to control bovine TB in both badgers and cattle, as opposed to culling, which it suggests may currently be accelerating the spread of the disease.
The initiative is initially funded by donations of more than £200,000 from Dr May and partner organisations.
“For this launch, we hope all those people genuinely in search of a solution for the bTB problem will put aside their differences to support BACVI. Naturalists, scientists, MPs, along with many members of Team Badger and the farming community will be participating,” Dr May said. “The contribution to the spread of bovine TB by wildlife is relatively small, compared with cattle to cattle transfer, but if we are to eliminate this component, vaccination is the only effective long-term solution. Vaccination of cattle is the Holy Grail, and we are pushing for trials on cattle vaccine to be run here. The Government seem to be dragging their heels, and we will endeavour to get them to see this as a priority.”
WESTERN MORNING NEWS
QUEEN’S BRIAN MAY LAUNCHES £1 MILLION SOUTH WEST BADGER VACCINATION SCHEME
4 February 2014 by G Demianyk
Queen guitarist Brian May has launched a campaign to raise £1 million to underwrite five badger vaccination projects in the South West to combat bovine TB ravaging the region. The musician is the frontman for the Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative, launched in Parliament today, which aims to recruit volunteers to help immunise the animals from the infectious disease. The project has already raised £200,000 through donations from Mr May and other sponsors, including cosmetics firm Lush and animal welfare groups.
The initiative, which is designed to demonstrate there is an alternative to controversial badger culling, will help pay vaccination schemes already up and running or about to start in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucester and Somerset.
BRIAN MAY TO LAUNCH BADGER AND CATTLE VACCINATION INITIATIVE
4 February 2014
Forefront in the fight against the Government’s badger cull policy, Queen guitarist Brian May joins with cosmetics company Lush and leading animal welfare organisations including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and Save Me to launch a new initiative, BACVI (Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative), a nationwide appeal to promote and support vaccination of badgers and cattle as a tool in the fight against bovine TB.
Despite the failure of last year’s pilot culls to achieve their objectives, the Government is preparing to go forward with plans to roll out the culling of badgers throughout the UK. It is no secret that farmers and landowners are already being called on by Natural England to prepare applications for future badger control licences.
By launching BACVI, May and partnering organisations are striving to win support among farmers to adopt vaccination as an immediate move towards helping to control bovine TB in both badgers and cattle, as opposed to culling, which it suggests may currently be accelerating the spread of the disease.
BACVI is announced as ‘a new, humane and credible project that will protect badgers from bovine TB, and take them out of the equation as regards bTB in cattle’.
Brian May is best known for his role in band Queen and recognised as one of the world’s finest rock guitarists. Brian founded Save Me (www.save-me.org.uk) to give wild animals a voice and ensure that they are protected. He is also a founder of Team Badger.