Observer Q & A


Recent written Q&A for the Observer – IN FULL: (Observer ran in part in article BRIAN MAY HITS OUT AT ‘PROPAGANDA’ WAR ON EVE OF BADGER CULL 24 August 2013)  
– posted Sat 24 August 2013 in BRIAN NEWS

Q &A – 23 August 2013

(OBSERVER) 1. You, alongside other eminent figures and organisations, have called for a boycott of milk and land in areas where the cull is due to take place. Are there any other new tactics that opponents can utilise?

BM: I have never called for a boycott of milk – that was incorrectly reported. That doesn’t mean I don’t sympathise with those who do – but I would much rather try to find common ground between farmers and animal advocates, so the needs of all can be met. And that’s been Save-Me’s policy all along. It’s not helpful when elements of the other side try to portray us as extremists. None of us want this war, but we won’t shy away from it either. I believe the badger cull is ethically entirely unacceptable, scientifically unsound, and so against the will of the British people that it will be a disaster for the farming community. It’s also increasingly obvious, to put it in simplest terms, that it won’t work. Farmers will see no benefits. Tactics ? Well, our guidelines are honesty, transparency, and, as I’ve written many times before, decency towards the farmers. You can’t logically fight for decency using indecent methods. We want to see our wildlife protected and treasured, but we also want to see healthy cattle and happy farmers. You can’t call it a tactic, really, but the solution is vaccination, for badgers and for cows. How do we fight, then ? Well, peacefully and decently, even if the other side is behaving despicably. The court decision on the injunction today took out those elements of the NFU application that would have proscribe peaceful protest. The only elements left in relate to harassment, and that is as it should be. So peaceful demonstration WILL be possible – and many people have written to us saying they will be walking their dogs nearby on Monday night and afterwards. We will continue to lobby MP’s, and the evidence is that many Tory MPs are finding it increasingly hard to keep supporting the party line on the cull when their constituents are urging them not to. The record number of signatures on our Petition on the Government’s website mean a lot. Writing to your MP means a lot. Democracy, decency and common sense must win in the end.

2. Defra has accused animal rights campaigners of “threatening farmers” – do you agree this is hypocritical when Defra appears to be threatening opponents of the cull and adopting a particularly aggressive position?

I’ve made it very clear many times that we do not support any kind of intimidation to farmers. Nevertheless it’s apparent that there have actually been threats made on both sides. We do need the NFU to acknowledge that there has been huge aggression from their side towards those who, peacefully, oppose the cull … many of the victims are actually farmers who want nothing of it, but find dead badgers nailed to their doors, and so become afraid to speak up. Of course most of the media report only one side of the problem – painting a false picture of irresponsibility of those who oppose this deeply violent act.

3. Is it too late to reach a compromise deal? If possible, what would you accept

What we are offering is to help solve the problem by procuring public support for vaccination projects. We are already working with the Welsh Government to do just this. But the first prerequisite is – stop culling. Contrary to what David Heath’s spin would have you believe, vaccination and culling do not mix. BCG Vaccination works very well in building up herd immunity (it worked on Humans), but, as Lord Krebs will tell you, it works only on a stable population. All this pretence that culling is ‘just one of the tools in the box’ is nonsense. It is the one tool which will not work, and will stop all the others working. One of the first acts of this Coalition Government was to cancel five of the six vaccine trials operational when they came to power. The EFRA Select Committee’s recent report on bTB said this was a sadly missed opportunity. We need proper research, not a farmer appeasing ineffective ‘quick fix’ (although Paterson has let it slip that he still sees culling being necessary in 25 years time!) Krebs has asked for research to be carried out to find out why 40% of farms in the hotspot areas have NEVER had TB in their cattle. The implication is, of course, that badgers can’t be to blame, since presumably they’re not picky about who owns the land they live on ! All these things have been brushed under the carpet in the emotional rush to declare war on a scapegoat – the badger.

4. There seems to be large public support for the cull. What is the current level of support against the cull?

Every time there is a poll, it’s clear that Brits don’t want this pointless bloodshed. Even in Paterson’s own constituency, an overwhelming majority in the local newspaper voted that “Brian May was right to oppose the cull”. We have a number of enlightened farmers on our side, but many of them are afraid to go public. 265,000 people signed our petition on the Government’s own website, and made it the largest ever. There have been two debates on the badger cull in Westminster. In the first one, the free vote went overwhelmingly against the cull. After the second debate, the Government prevailed narrowly, but only by threatening their own MP’s that if they didn’t follow the party line they would suffer. It’s called a ‘Whip’ – a traditional but largely undemocratic practice, easily abused, as in this case. This country does NOT want badger culling.

5. Elements of the (right-wing) media appear to have adopted a fierce position against opponents of the cull. Do you believe there is a concerted media campaign to discredit animal welfare organisations and charities?

Yes, undoubtedly. It’s not rocket science – it’s all about money and power, vested interests, undercover deals, and votes. Under this Government full use has been made of, for instance, the Telegraph, as a vehicle of propaganda. The current campaign against the RSPCA is scandalous, completely manufactured by those who condone blood sports) and cannot abide with the RSPCA (and ALL other animal charities) bringing fox hunters to justice. When we read our newspapers, we have to be conscious that unbiased truth is a hard commodity to find these days, especially when this Government is spending huge sums of money on propaganda to try to persuade us that their highly suspect policies are justified.

6. Do you also think DEFRA have gone too far in attacking animal welfare organisations that oppose its position ?

Yes, I think it smacks of desperation. And, sadly it’s clear that many of the honest DEFRA workers are embarrassed by it.

7. Do you support direct action against those backing the cull? What other means can avtivists use to disrupt he cull?

We support only legal, peaceful protest. I wouldn’t rule out some of my own. We live in a democracy – don’t we?

8. What was your inspiration re animal rights? Is there a particular moment that you can trace that has made you one of Britain’s most prominent and lauded animal welfare figureheads?

I have always had a strong conviction that the human race treats animals despicably. This country, priding itself as a nation of animal lovers, is as guilty as Hell of abusing the weak, and those beings who do not have a voice. I got to a point in my life where I had to act on my convictions. I have no motives of money, fame, or power – why would I ? I’ve had all those. I just want to see justice. Just as justice had to be fought for in the case of the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, and the outlawing of all kind of despicable practices justified by tradition and ignorance, the right of ALL sentient creatures to decent treatment has to be fought for. And in the foreseeable future, we will win that right. We will be their voice. You can only justify destroying thousands of families of mostly healthy badgers if you rate the value of wild mammal as zero. That is what Cameron is doing. I didn’t set out to be a figurehead, and I’m not the leader of this movement. I just happen to be conspicuous. But as anyone in Team Badger will tell you … I’m not a celebrity … I’m a worker. I’m proud to be a voice for animals. There will be more and more of us as time goes on.