Here is a message I’ve received today, accusing me of hypocrisy, together with my answer below. It’s fairly typical of the stuff I deal with every day, so I thought I’d share it with you.
Hi Brian (or who read this on his behalf.)
I’m not being difficult, and I love badgers, but I have to question the supposed love of animals, or is it just the love of cute animals that don’t directly affect the health of everyone’s friends and family. Here is a copy of something I posted in response to the announcement of your campaign against the culling of badgers. Being someone who grew up on a game farm joined to the Kruger National Park in South Africa that had to cull so that over-grazing didn’t result in the destruction of many antelope species on our land, and in the park in general, I was wondering about your opinion of the following post of mine. (Excuse my bad grammar, Afrikaans is my native tongue.)
Anyway here is my post
Dear Brian May, what about animals that bring direct sickness to humans, such as rats? Rats are animals because rodents are animals. Squirrels and chipmunks are rodents. So are rats. Should we be protecting them as well as badgers? If we had another outbreak of the black plague carried by rats, and hundreds of thousands or humans were dying as a result, your parents, children, uncles and aunts etc., would you be saying more important then music in your life would be opposing a cull of rats? I love badgers and have them visiting my garden and we stay up at night to watch them. But I think people are very selective when it comes to which animals they go out to protect, all the cute ones, so in effect people like Brian May are true hypocrites.
Well, Colin, of course your ‘post’ is already up there and is highly insulting to me.
Try calling anyone you know a hypocrite and see if they still want to talk to you.
So I don’t really know why I’m bothering to reply.
My experience is that people like yourself do not ‘get it’, even after all the facts are explained to them.
But let me try just one more time, because of course you’re not the first to come up with arguments like this.
1) My love of animals is not related to how ‘cute’ or ‘cuddly’ they are. It’s my fundamental belief that any animal that can feel pleasure or pain, and that certainly includes all mammals, has the right, as humans do, of decent treatment, a chance to live free and die free.
2) Your supposition that Badgers ‘endanger the life’ of humans is wrong. Badgers did not introduce bTB to Britain. The clue is in the name – BOVINE TB. The mycobacterium is endemic to cows, and cattle farming has infected our British wild animals over the last hundred years or so. This fact is really indisputable. One of my favourite quotes from farmers was when I asked a sheep farmer in Yorkshire if the badgers in their fields had bTB. He laughed and said “Bovine TB? Don’t be daft – we don’t have cows here – of course we don’t have TB!”
3) bTB is a serious threat to the livelihood of some farmers. It is not considered to be a significant threat to the health of humans. If someone has told you otherwise, they have been misinformed. Humans get bTB only very rarely if they drink unpasteurised milk or are working directly with infected animals. We are talking primarily about money, here, because cows are routinely slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands because of lameness, low milk production, mastitis, and simply because they have outlived their usefulness. Thus the slaughter of badgers, even if it could achieve the eradication of TB, which it can’t (I will explain this in a minute) cannot be justified by claiming that they “bring direct sickness to humans”. Your argument fails right here.
4) Just in case there was any doubt, a massive government-backed scientific experiment was mounted a few years ago, called the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), in which 11,000 badgers were killed, over a 10 year period, at enormous cost to the taxpayer. The concluding report said “Culling badgers cannot meaningfully contribute to the control of Bovine TB in cattle Britain”. The scientists who conducted this experiment still stick by their conclusions, and Lord Krebs himself, undoubtedly one of the world’s experts in the subject, recently described the Government’s current scheme as ‘crazy’. He is backed by the entire scientific community in his condemnation of this cull.
5) Our contribution to this problem is far from being all negative. We, as the consortium of Animal Charities headed up by RSPCA, IFAW and LACS, have put together proposals to attack the bTB problem which offer help to farmers in vaccinating badgers on their land, eliminating any potential re-infection from that source, and we are working behind the scenes to bring closer the instigation of vaccinating our national herd of cows. These measures offer not just an alternative to culling, but the ONLY possible route towards eradication of bTB in this country.
6) Owen Paterson, having failed to win the support of science, has recently switched to trying to justify a cull on the grounds that it has succeeded in other countries. This is completely false. No country has EVER eliminated bTB by culling the local wildlife. The prime example is the Republic of Ireland, where after the death of 90,000 badgers, TB is still rife.
7) The statement that “TB is a terrible threat to the UK” is not in any way a logical argument for a cull. If TB is as serious a threat as is claimed, there is no excuse for not prioritising vaccination of cows and wildlife. Culling is neither a short-term nor a long-term solution. It is not a solution at all. All it will do is alienate the farming community, and the present government, from the rest of Britain.
8) The elephant in the room is the scandal of repeated breakdowns on many farms in TB hotspots. The skin test for TB reactors is so unreliable, that it’s a certainty that infected individuals are left in the herd which produce re-infection down the line, but badgers have been blamed, without proof, for this pattern of events. Nevertheless, no matter what the cause of repeated breakdowns, the British taxpayer is funding farmers to carry on raising cows in areas where it is absolutely certain that they will get sick. The implications are blindingly obvious and shocking. In any other industry, the response would be a radical change of approach. If, every time a herd showed signs of sickness, a change of business was brought in …. for instance, switching from cows to sheep or arable in that field, the problem would undoubtedly be radically reduced in just a few years. How long can we go on subsidising farmers to go on making the same mistake time after time?
9) In the coming weeks, we are urging our colleagues to act within the law, and with due considerations to farmers, in expressing their outrage at this mass slaughter. But one has to view this in the light of the evidence that unlawful killing of badgers is going on all the time, and farmers are regularly being found to be breaking the law by devious practices such as switching ear-tags, allowing infected animals to remain in the herd.
10) in effect people like Brian May are true hypocrites. You will judge for yourself, of course. All I can tell you is that ‘people like me’ are fighting with no motive other than bringing about justice for all creatures, and eliminating unnecessary suffering. I can assure you I don’t need any more fame, or money, or approbation. Why then, would the word ‘hypocrite’ be appropriate?
11) Rats? If I had enough time left in my life, I would definitely work to bring about a fair deal for rats and mice. These animals have genomes and nervous systems almost indistinguishable from our own. It is ridiculous to imagine that they don’t feel pain, and probably sorrow too. IT is humans who have forced them into the sewers and rubbish tips – the disgusting places we have created because of our own over-population. Then we label them as Vermin, and this seems to justify any amount of cruelty to these creatures. In my opinion, it is ALL wrong, and needs to be fixed in the years to come, as we begin to earn the right to call ourselves ‘human’.
Since you didn’t bother to write to me first, I will afford you the same consideration. I will publish your message to me on my website, along with this reply, and let’s leave everyone else to discuss which of us has a just case.
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