Thanks for the kind comments on my piece for the Mail on Sunday on Badgers. I
have also had some adverse reactions, of course, and I actually use this as an opportunity to learn, and to discuss in detail.
So thanks for ALL the comments.
If anyone’s interested, here is a link to my original file, which was a bit longer than the 1,000 words I was asked to write.
(SEE BELOW FOR ORIGINAL DRAFT)
Geordie Greig, the editor of the M on S, came back to me with an edit, with some suggestions for additions. I then did a final run on it, making sure that what it said was close to what I actually had wanted to say in the first place.
To be honest, I think it was an honest piece of interaction. The newspapers aren’t always so straightforward in their dealings, as we’ve all seen
. The only unfortunate things for me was that the headline was all words which I had NOT said … And it’s the headline that gives people a flavour for the piece, if they can’t be bothered to read it.
Of course I expect reactions from the other side of the argument – if it were not so, there would be no reason to continue this fight, which we all find very draining.
I spent the first year of my involvement just meeting farmers and trying to find common ground. That’s what a lot of people who call me ‘rubbish’ don’t understand. And I made some good friends among the farmers. The impression that the NFU gives – that ALL farmers think culling is the answer – is not true at all.
But the whole thing has now got polarised, and comments which are really just personal insults don’t help.
What a huge sadness that all this energy has to be wasted, just to bring about a little respect for creatures who are doing a lot less harm to this planet than we are.
MAIL ON SUNDAY
BRIAN MAY ORIGINAL DRAFT
In probably less than a month’s time, David Cameron’s government plans to start killing badgers, a protected species, on a massive scale in ‘pilot’ culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
This scheme, which will maim and kill thousands of mostly healthy badgers, is being pursued on the pretext of ‘doing something’ about the problem of bovine TB in cows. That ‘something’ – the free-shooting of badgers in the dark with high-power rifles – is demonstrably unjustifiable by science and by morality, will ultimately cost the farmer and the taxpayer a fortune, and, even by the NFU’s own admission, cannot solve the problem. Nevertheless, Cameron, Jim Paice, and Caroline Spelman cling to this appalling doomed policy, and one can only assume that the reason is to appease a powerful farming leadership which has been demanding a cull since before these people were in power, and indeed played a part in putting them into power.
Why should I care? I’m that bloke who risked his reputation on top of Buckingham Palace ten years ago, and stepped out alone and unclicked at the recent Olympic Closing ceremony. Well, every day I risk my reputation in a different way, by speaking out against what I believe to be gross abuses of the animals around us. Why should YOU care? Well, apart from wondering what blood is about to be spilled to put a pint of milk on your table, remember that is YOUR money the government is spending, as it ignores all scientific evidence and the vast majority of public opinion.
Understanding of our responsibility towards animals begins with small things. It begins with the realisation that killing to solve a problem is never the answer. One of the most pitiful sights in any garden is a line of straggly marigolds surrounded by those hideous blue slug pellets, and the sickening spectacle of slugs and snails writhing in agony. Even if you turn a blind eye to this horror, what you have done by this ill-considered act is poison everything. When did you last see one of those delightful hedgehogs who used to grace our gardens? Well, your slug pellets have poisoned them too, plus birds and anything else that comes into contact with these noxious chemicals, including your pets and your children. How much more sensible to grow plants that resist the slugs and snails, and rid your environment of poisons.
A similar story applies to foxes, particularly in towns. It’s amazing that these shy creatures have survived at all in the sterile concrete jungles we have created, but few people appreciate what an important part they play as our partners in city living. As scavengers, they help keep our environment clean, and a healthy population of foxes ensures that rats will not predominate. Plus – intrinsically, they are intelligent sentient beings who are worthy of respect. Yet, as soon as someone decides that a fox is annoying them, for instance because they have not properly secured their waste bins, they will call in the ‘pest control’ man … the exterminator. He will put out bait which will attract foxes for miles around, and trap and kill any number of completely innocent animals. The result? The rats will have their day for a while, but foxes are territorial, and of course the gap will soon be filled by foxes from neighbouring parts. The end result of the killing? Zero. Less than zero, because an opportunity has been missed to learn to live with the animals who have just as much right as us to a decent life, and a place in our world.
So I, along with the RSPCA, IFAW, PETA, LACS, Born Free, The Badger Trust, and many others will be trying to enlist your help in the next few weeks to stop Cameron’s bloody plan for badger butchering.
But of course you can see already that the ‘enemy’ is up to the usual tricks. They will do their utmost to portray peaceful dissenters as violent extremists. It’s so easy – it only takes a couple of reports of ‘families being threatened’, generally impossible to verify, but the emotional ploy is effective, whether it is true or not – the message being that anyone who disagrees with the NFU, or the Countryside Alliance, is a nutter. In all my time as a campaigner for animals I have never yet met any of these alleged ‘violent’ protesters. People who love animals are naturally peaceful – but they are faced every day with senseless violence from the shady lower end of society who get their kicks from despicable pursuits like badger-baiting and dogfighting, and from the supposed upper end of society who cling to their ancient ‘rights’ to torure and kill animals under the guise of ‘Sport’. Now those of us who care about our fellow creatures on this once-green planet find themselves up against violence from the Government itself. David Cameron is peddling a package of measures that is violent towards animals, and taken to its end, could mean that the world our grandchildren inherit, whether town or country, is bereft of animals, a silent graveyard of all the creatures that God put in these islands long before Man arrived.
Does this seem like an exaggerated claim? Remember, this is the government which, alongside this plan to shoot badgers in the dark, is still dedicated to the idea of smashing the Hunting Act – putting the clock back, making it once again legal to tear foxes apart with packs of dogs, to do the same to stags, and to bring back the equally despicable ‘sport’ of Hare-coursing.
I still don’t think people really realise this – that this particular bunch of ex-public schoolboys is still Hell-bent on bring back blood-sports. I keep wanting to say to people, “What were you thinking? – when you voted for these utterly out-of-touch professional politicians, who went seamlessly from public school to University to the corridors of power, and have never experienced the real world outside – how could you possibly imagine that they would understand or represent the wishes of the common man?”
There is nobody in our present Government who represents the interests of wild animals – DEFRA is dominated by Farming (and shooting) interests, which are almost always in conflict with anything else that moves in the countryside. So we who have elected to try to correct that imbalance, to fight the injustices which result, and be a voice for animals, wake up every day to a situation of war. A war in which the enemy – the pro-cruelty brigade, are by definition violent, yet we must always be peaceful. A war in which the other side holds all the aces. They can even withhold information, as they are now doing, as to when and where this shooting with high-powered rifles will take place. So be very careful where you take your dog for a walk if you live in Somerset or Gloucestershire.
It’s not so different from William Wilberforce, in his struggle for recognition of the fact that slavery of other human races was wrong. It’s not so different from Nelson Mandela’s struggle on a different continent for a similar cause years later. When we were in the process of organising the first 46664 concert for AIDS awareness with Nelson Mandela in Cape Town 2004, we (Roger and I) were lucky enough to spend several nights around a campfire with the great man, listening to his stories. For a man who had spent years wrongfully imprisoned for his beliefs, Madiba had an uncanny lightness, and not a trace of vengeful thoughts. By peacefully, doggedly sticking to his principles, he achieved for Black South African citizens what we must now achieve for the other creatures with which we share this planet – a recognition that they have feelings and rights just like us. And it is time for those rights and feelings, and welfare, to be respected.
It will be a long walk. But I believe absolutely that we will get there.
The first steps in this country will be to abort this disgraceful, tragic, and pointless killing of badgers. The Cull must be stopped. The next step will be to take steps to make sure that the Hunting Act is made impregnable, and is enforced to the letter. There must be no return to the barbaric past.
Until we achieve these things we will not be worthy of the name ‘human’ beings.
Mr Cameron, which part of ‘Thou Shall Not Kill’ did you not understand?