Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Direct Action on the Badger Cull

Monday, August 26th, 2013

A cancer at the heart of government

The issue of the politics of farming has been a long term plan for about 10,000 farmers in the upper echelons of the NFU’s 55,000 members. They have managed to sneak their way on to the DEFRA management team and into leadership positions within Natural England. These people now maintain a corrupting and cankerous core at the heart of government – recent Freedom of Information Requests show without any doubt that they have conspired with the NFU to bring in a cull of Britain’s badgers.

Mass animal killing when there is a vaccine?

The badger cull is nothing other than a mass killing of badgers which will do next to nothing to reduce bovine TB infection rates in cattle. Indeed, better testing measures and restricted measures to move potentially infected cattle are already reducing the infection rates in cattle before any badgers are shot by the NFU. Using more accurate cattle TB tests; and using the TB vaccine on high and medium risk cattle herds could make bovine TB almost a thing of the past in many cattle-farming areas of Britain. The NFU’s twisted logic of avoiding the TB vaccine is the same as saying you’d kill the first of your children who got measles, polio or diphtheria to try to stop it from infecting the others. The logic of a £10 TB vaccine, is that you can protect a badger or a valuable beef animal or a productive high-yield milker for their whole life; without the upset of either culling or financial embarrassment at Barclays. The government agreement that the NFU will be able to shoot 100,000 badgers will leave huge parts of the UK with no badgers; will make no serious difference to the 4,000 cattle which are shot under farm TB management rules and regulations.

The effective end of badger protection laws?

The NFU’s appalling and bloody massacre of thousands of healthy badgers will start very soon it seems. Of course, the Conservatives who run DEFRA seem to think their job is to pursue their own narrow-minded pro-hunt interests against the environment. We have seen numerous examples of soft-treatment of grouse-moor owners and shabby treatment of wildlife (buzzards, eagles, hen harriers, gulls, corvids, etc). The badger is a case in point. The issue with the two “trial” badger culls is NOT to cut bovine TB (as all the dead ones will be burnt before they are TB tested). The badger cull is not about science or research or learning, it is simply a new bloodsport brought in under the cover of assessing whether they can kill enough badgers over a six-week long shooting festival. Less than 1% of dead badgers will be checked to see whether they had instant humane deaths, so many badgers will die long painful inhumane deaths. If the hunter’s guns can inflict enough casualties on the protected badger populations of Somerset and Gloucestershire; they will roll out a plan across all or most of England’s counties over the next 25 years. To all intents and purposes, the badger cull signals the effective end of the various laws which protects the badger from persecution.

An e-petition sought to change the government policy on the killing of badgers. DEFRA have ignored this – the most popular such e-petition ever – arrogantly dismissing the views of nearly 270,000 UK voters, simply because 10,000 farmers want to use the badger as a scapegoat. As well, and possibly of greater importance, are the views of the top scientists from the UK and overseas. There is no peer-reviewed scientific paper which states that culling badgers will make a major impact on the reduction in TB in cattle. If you have a government which point-blank refuses to listen to every top scientist on one of the most important science-problems in animal health, you’ve got to question not just their ability to govern, but also their ability to think.

The “failed” NFU injunction

The NFU has rightly been subject to some criticism. They responded to this criticism so “well” they went to court to try to get an injunction banning any-one from protesting in Somerset or Gloucestershire and several other counties. In effect their injunction was so watered down by the Judge in the High Court, all it really says is that badger cull protesters should not break the law as it already existed before the cull was agreed. So, if you are a lawful protestor, you have no worries from the NFU or the Police, as injunctions are not a police matter. Even if you are what some people claim might be an “unlawful” protestor, do you have genuine worries in the real world? People skilled in the arts of sabbing hunts seem to think that the badger cull protests will not be badly affected by the NFU injunction anyway. Our advice, for what it’s worth, is that the hunt sabs have the skills, experience and the legal know-how on their side. Any-one wanting to protest the badger cull in a direct action type of manner would be well advised to join the hunt sabs organisations, buy the clothing and the kit; and know what to do and what to say in what circumstances. Despite the rabid rantings of the pro-hunt animal abusers and twitter trolls; every single hunt sab we have ever met prides themselves on their non-violent stance. They do not want to meet violence with violence; they just want to see animals live their wild or domestic lives free from torture, hunting and abuse.

But how do we move forward in the protest against the badger cull?

We have done everything we can as law-abiding citizens to persuade the government to change their minds and follow the people and the science to vaccinate rather than exterminate. We have twice written to our local (twice married, but against gay marriage) MP, Craig Whitaker. His “copy and paste” idiotic response suggests he is a man who shows every sign of being outwitted by a blunt pencil. Owen Paterson, David Heath and Richard Benyon are all pro-hunt; are have all been put in place by the grouse-shooting stag-hunting fox-hunting Prime Minister. So long as Cameron is in the office; the Etonians, aristocrats and the idiotic backbench wannabes will pursue their own interests, even though 65,000,000 plebs disagree with them. Given that this government don’t listen, and we can’t afford NFU-style bribes or Monsanto-style jobs for “after politics”, all we can say is that we are done with them as voters. In exactly the same way that the Conservatives lost “Yorkshire” when they shut down their coal mines, for a generation they will lose the votes of all the people who think that wildlife is for watching not for hunting or shooting.

Dr Brian May – Brock God

We continue to be big supporters of the scientist, rock guitarist and national treasure Brian May and his campaigning for the future of badgers and farming, but the e-petition will close soon; and the government will ignore it unless the NFU sign it. Initially we thought he might be a celebrity distraction, but he has campaigned very well and shown up the NFU for what they are on every occasion they have had the balls to debate with him. Odd how the NFU don’t seem to want to debate with him any more… Brian, you are a hero for wildlife – we would hope that your work for wildlife will be seen as your best work to date.

Organics is “Dead Badger” Milk Nowadays

We continue to be big supporters of the Badger Trust, Secret World, the Badger Protection League, Save Me, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Hunt Sabs Association and their many county groups, as well as the RSPCA. As “wildlife” people we have a huge affinity with all wildlife groups and we are grateful for the full support of the many raptor-watch groups; and the quiet (if not whispering) support of the WWT and the RSPB. The one group we thought would be in favour of wildlife was the Soil Association; but they have allowed their big-business supporters to poison the organic movement, so that organic dairy milk may as well be “dead badger” milk nowadays.

Peaceful Protests?

For any-one who has not been on a protest, I would strongly recommend doing so, as you meet some great people and you can show your support for wildlife and shout out about how the government is so very badly wrong. Organisations like the Secret World, Badger Trust, Somerset Badger Patrol and others organise peaceful protests, suitable for kids and critters, young and old and everyone from the gentle grannie through to the experienced sabber. When you retire, I’m sure you’d rather have a story to tell that you did something real, rather than grumbling about it being a shame; so please be out there.

If you can’t get to the culling fields of Somerset and Gloucestershire, you can help people who can by supporting them to buy things like fuel for vehicles, torches, mobile phones and so on.

We try to list the various support funds on our web-site on this page – they do change from time to time:

Direct Action is the Answer Now

Importantly though, the bloody badger cull is now imminent, so what is needed NOW is direct action in the woodlands and fields of England to save the lives of badgers.

There are so many direct action groups now, that the NFU had to include the term “unknown persons” in their injunction to try to include them all.

One great organisation to support are the Hunt Saboteurs Association; as they celebrate 50 years of being in the fields to stop blood sports, such as fox hunting, hare coursing and badger culling. It is worth checking them out on their website and making use of their Donate button or links.

It is also worth checking for your local county Hunt Sabs groups (; as well as field-based events, they still need help with fund raising too. You don’t need to dress in “combats” and walk across field to help the Hunt Sabs if that’s not your “thing”.

Do be sure to check out their legal advice page though. Not that we are suggesting you might be a lawbreaker or anything, but it is as well to read about and understand why “hunt sabs” do and say the things they do and why they dress in a certain way. Essentially sabbing is predominantly a team-work activity, so it’s as well to know the rules your friends are following.

If you are focussed only on the badger cull right now, please check out the tweets from and the webpages of and  as they are very active in the cull zones. Contrary to what the NFUs apologists say, lots of people support @freebrocks – in fact they have more supporters than the NFU do, which is kind of ironic. Following @freebrocks on twitter is good as they are good at communicating information which is both timely and accurate; and less prone to misinterpretation within the froth of false rumours placed by some trolls and hunt-supporters.

Like we have said, we believe the time for the polite politics is coming to a close; and the time for direct action to save badgers from the guns is imminent. The government will not listen; so it is up to the people of this country to go into the fields and the woodlands to rescue as many badgers from the inhumanity of the farmer’s guns as physically possible.


Following the publication of this article, we have made a £50 donation to the FreedaBrocks fuel fund, so they can get sabs and experienced activists into the badger cull zones.

We would urge everyone to take whatever direct or indirect action they feel comfortable with; even if it’s “just” a donation.

Want to see badgers near to you?

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Today’s blog talks about one of the key questions we are often asked on, namely: How can we get some badgers to come and live near us?

Over the past few days, I have been in email contact with a friend of mine who works in the badger business – or more accurately – for an excellent badger charity. For want of a better nickname, let’s call my friend “Secret Andy”. Over the years, I have done a bit of work with Secret Andy – helping to move a family of badgers from under a road and a house to a safer location in a new nearby woodland. I also worked with Secret Andy on a badger release project in the North of England. When I say “worked together”, I really mean he did 99% of the work and I did 99% of the write-up for a newsletter report!

Secret Andy has a dream job, which involves caring for baby badgers at one of the world’s most important badger rescue centres; assembling them into perfect new families, and finding them homes in the wild. However, like any dream job it is not a job for the fearful or the faint-hearted.

Often the badgers that come into Secret Andy’s care are orphaned cubs, whose mothers have been killed in road traffic accidents in the first few weeks and months of the year. The biggest killer of badgers in the UK is the motor vehicle; and this takes a huge toll on the badger population. Every year baby cubs, yearlings and adults are mown down on the roads and railways – perhaps as many as 50,000 badgers die on the roads every year. Although every accident has a victim, the worst tragedy of all is when a nursing mother (called a sow) is killed. Her young cubs, still dependent on her milk will remain in or near their sett waiting and crying patiently for her non-return. Over a number of days, they will become ever hungrier and more dehydrated; and increasingly at risk of predation by foxes and terriers which have been slipped off the lead by the small proportion of dog-owners who are classed as dim-witted.

In some cases, older badger cubs may be seen at or near the entrance to the sett, where they may be observed by keen badger watchers and perhaps even rescued if they know a dead nursing sow has been found recently. Cubs only a few weeks old will remain underground – their eyes still not open and their little legs still not strong enough to emerge from their underground birthplace and into the hands of a potential rescuer. Far far too many badgers cubs die underground in this way. It is amazing that so many orphaned badger cubs are rescued every year; and that so many find themselves placed into the care provided by Secret Andy and his many co-workers and volunteers.

Once at the rescue centre, the little orphans are assessed for their state of health and fed and watered – sometimes as often as every hour – by a band of dedicated and increasingly tired workers and volunteers. Badger cubs are very cute little critters and every-one who comes into close contact with one soon becomes very attached to them. The cubs are assessed in terms of whereabouts in the country they came from and their ages, sizes and sexes; and placed into new families. The idea is that the badgers can be raised as a proper family unit which can be released back into the freedom of the countryside as a family unit; and ideally into the same county that they came from. Over the space of several weeks, the badger cubs get used to their human carers and their new families and generally do well in the rescue centre.

The next stage for the badger cubs is that they need to be removed from the company of their human carers so they can become wild again. Of course, when they are on the hourly feeds; the cubs do get used to human company and close contact. However, this is a bad idea for release-badgers as their cousins who have always lived in the wild remain very wary of humans – often with very good reason. At the rescue centre, the badgers are placed into special pens where they can be observed and fed remotely, but they do not generally see humans except in the most unusual circumstances. I guess you could see this as “tough love”, but it’s probably an awful lot tougher on the human carers than the badgers.

Being a world-class badger rescue centre, the badgers are treated according to a detailed agreed protocol. This procotol means that the badgers are assessed for their state of health at various points in their lives to make sure that they remain as healthly viable animals. Although you might want to do ALL you can to treat an animal; living in the wild is a tough job and you have a responsibility to make sure that every animal can make the grade. Sadly a few animals are too poorly to be in with a fighting chance in the wild and not all survive.

The other key test when working with badgers which are to be released into the countryside is the issue of bovine tuberculosis (i.e. the form of TB which cattle spread to one another, to other animals and, potentially, any-one who is reckless enough to still drink unpasteurised cows milk). Many people are unsure of the relationship between the bovine TB you get in cows and the bovine TB you then get in badgers, deer, cats, rats, mice, moles, earthworms, llamas, goats and people. Some of the people who are unsure as to how bovine TB works work for DEFRA – some of the others work for the National Farmers Union (NFU) and some are still Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government (though God knows why after the debacle over the Welsh badger cull in Wales). Let’s just none of these confused people end up working in the NHS!

Anyway, back to the care and the science and the responsibility of Secret Andy at the badger rescue centre. ALL their badgers are tested to see whether they are carrying the bovine TB infection. This isn’t the sort of crappy cheap-as-chips unreliable test that the government uses too infrequently on too few cows; this is a proper scientific test which is both expensive and highly-accurate. If the test shows that the badger has or even might have the TB infection it is put to sleep and a post-mortem done and various bits of the animal’s tissue cultured to see if the poor badger actually had TB. Needless to say, although a very small % of badgers do show that they have been exposed to TB by the test, virtually none actually have TB in reality in their bodies. A few weeks later, the badgers are tested again to see if they have picked up the TB. And, a few weeks after that, the badgers are tested once more. At each stage, any badger which shows an undesirable result is put to sleep, post mortemed and cultured. Virtually no badgers have TB on post mortem or on culture. Full Stop. So there we have it, badgers released according to the badger procol are tested THREE times to make sure that they do not carry the bovine TB infection. Badgers which are released according to the badger protocol, do not have bovine (cattle) TB. The suggestion that they do is put about by certain members and spin-doctors associated with the No Flaming Use brigade. They should be ashamed they have to lie to what they think is clearly a gullible public.

Importantly, though, there is relatively new development known as the badger vaccine. This is based on the BCG vaccine that protected much of the human world from TB, but it has now been adapted for badgers. Seems to be a brilliant idea on the face of it and well worth pursuing. Given the choice of a low-speed injection with a needle and high-speed injection with a hunting rifle, I know which one I’d choose. Badgers which have already passed the three high-tech bovine TB tests are now being given the badger vaccine as yet another safeguard against the flow of the TB infection around wildlife and the environment.

As an aside, I sometimes have a strange dream where I wonder whether any-one might have thought of inventing some sort of vaccine which farmers could give to their cattle to stop them getting the bovine TB infection and therefore stop passing their bovine TB to other cattle and other species! Clever scientists have won Nobel prizes for work like this! Businessmen have even won houses and yachts in Monaco for similar work!

Back in the real world , if all this work with the badgers seems like hard work it is; although it must count as one of the most rewarding jobs in the world when things go right.

The next part of the operation seems like the easy bit – take the nearly-grown-up family of badgers into the countryside and release them! If it were only that simple!!

A bit like the residents of Royston Vasey, badgers, as a species, remain in a very small very local area throughout all their lives – they are not wide-ranging like deer or cattle trucks for example. Partly because badgers remain within a mile or so of where they were born, badger clans (families) are highly territorial. In other words, they have their own main underground home (called a sett) and an area around it which they will defend with great vigour. The very last thing that a clan of badgers wants is another clan being released into their home area. If this were to happen, the badgers would fight for dominance which could result in serious injuries and even deaths. Eventually, the weakest surviving badgers would be driven away by the stronger ones; but only after a huge amount of suffering.

For this reason, when new badger familes are released; they usually go into an area of countryside which provides them with food, shelter and safety; and is a decent distance away from other badger clans. One of the really, really difficult bits of Secret Andy’s job is finding these vital areas. You might find, for example, that there are loads of suitable badger foods and there are some great woodlands for them to shelter and make their homes in, but the site is too near where badger baiters operate or it’s too near a busy road. The problem of finding suitable release sites for new badger families is an annual problem. With every new summer/autumn there are several new badger familes which NEED a home in the countryside so they can live their natural wild lives. With every successful release of a new family; there is the immense joy, pride and delight on the part of the badgers rescuers of another family returned to the wild. And, there is the thought, that we now need to find another great badger release site to replace the one that has just been used.

Actually a great deal of work goes into finding suitable badger release sites. Secret Andy does a lot of the surveying work and the detailed suitability assessment; but much of this is in close collaboration with badger groups and other animal rescue organisations.  The landowner is the key contact, as he or she needs to give their permission. After that neighbours may be asked for their opinions and whether they might want to get involved. Overall though, the process is very much a colloborative one with people working together with patience and understanding, and in a few cases gentle pursuasion.

Having been involved in one of these badger releases, I can say that this was more interesting, fulfilling and rewarding than anything else I did that year. I can heartily recomend any-one to get involved in work like this- it will certainly be a damn sight more interesting than going to another set of lectures or boring business meetings or wasting money on frippery in the shopping centre or whatever.

As a landowner or a long-term tenant, you don’t necessarily need to own a massive area of land – if you have a few acres/hectares in which a temporary straw-bale or a permanent artificial badger sett could be built that might be enough – especially if surrounding areas provide a good habitat for badgers in terms of shelter, food and safety. Landowners are increasingly seeing themselves not just as owners of the land but as custodians of the wildlife and the ecology of the land.

Of course, in contacting Secret Andy at the badger rescue centre you are embarking on a dual process of hope and discovery. It may be that, at this precise moment, the circumstances are not right or the environment around you is not rich enough in terms of woodlands, fields and biodiversity; but the environment is a long-term thing. Getting the ball rolling in the right direction is something you can start now, even if it is a year or two before everything falls into place. It’s certainly worth making a phone call as you have nothing to lose and a new badger family has everything to gain. If you or a neighbour might be interested in seeing badgers on your land, I would urge you to contact Secret Andy to see how you can help one another to help Britain’s badgrs live their wild lives.

You can contact Andy at Secret World on 01278 783250.

Simon Flory

Badger Specialist

DEFRA want my help!

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

This week I have been in the very fortunate position of being able to work from home. So there I was in the middle of a whole lot of complex IT development work for an important client, when the Badgerland phone (01422 846 846) rings.

Very well spoken young lady on the other end of the phone wants some advice about dealing with badgers in gardens.

To cut a long story short, an old lady is living in her own home and badgers are coming into her garden and causing quite a lot of damage. She’s upset because they are coming in from outside and she really loves her garden and she wants the badgers to stop making such a mess. The badgers are actually living in their sett which is on neighbouring land – the neighbour being the local council. Of course, the old lady is a bit infirm and, as she’s living only on the state pension, she can’t afford to be spending any money on expensive ways to try and solve the problem.

Badgers and their underground homes are protected by law. You can’t get rid of them if you don’t like them or don’t care for what they are doing. The local council don’t have a problem with the badgers living on their land. Quite rightly, the council are not responsible for the actions of wild animals – especially when they are as well protected by the law as badgers are.

There is a proper procedure to deal with major badger-related problems – this involves getting a commercial badger consultant or your local badger group to apply for a so-called Badger Licence from Natural England, which would give the legal authority to move the badgers to a new home which you have built for them (at your expense). The procedure costs both time and money; and there are periods of the year when you can do nothing to the badger sett – this is to make sure that any cubs can be born and weaned without disturbance. The Badger Licence procedure has traditionally been used for problems which are serious, rather than just trivial, upsetting or, for want of a better word, cosmetic. The procedure is there to make sure that there is enough “justification” to destroy a protected badger sett. It is there to deal with important things such as the case of a real risk to health and safety, such as badgers digging into a railway embankment or a flood defence or a corner of the house falling off. Bog-standard garden damage is not serious enough, so, correctly in our view, the Badger Licence procedure does not apply here.

Apart from moving house and leaving the badger issue as a delightful surprise for the new owners, there are a couple of ways to think about coming to an amicable solution.

First solution, and without doubt the cheapest one, is to get used to the badgers and their friendly little ways. Of course, making sure there are no food scraps in the garden might help; as the badgers will have less reason to come into the property. Like many wild animals, badgers don’t go round the countryside as tourists with the aim of wanton destruction. They do travel around for food and what people politely used to call “a bit of how’s your father”? If badgers have nothing to eat in your garden, that’s one less reason why they will want to come on to your lawns and flowerbeds.

The second way to keep badgers out, is with the use of badger-proof fencing.  These come in two types: permanent and temporary.

  • Permanent fence: As prolific diggers, you need to sink the fence deep underground to stop them burrowing underneath. As accomplished climbers, you will need to make the fence good and tall (at least 4 feet); and so they can’t get a grip with their strong claws. Some animal rescue centres confine their rescue badgers with a fence with an horizontal overhang – a bit like you’d see surrounding a military base, but without the CCTV cameras. Erecting the fence is a considerable undertaking – both in terms if time, labour and expense. No doubt the mess made by the builders would add to the stress of an already-worried pensioner too.
  •  Temporary fence: these are good to exclude badgers for a few weeks or months. Hence their use around food crops in fields and on allotments; and golf courses when the Tiger is in town. More than 99% effective at keeping out badgers, foxes, rabbits and dogs; the main problem comes in the name – yes – it’s the dreaded “electric” fence. Yes, they are unsightly in a domestic garden and they can harm or kill small creatures such as frogs. But, you can buy these for a few hundred pounds from farm suppliers; and the saleshuman will probably know some-one who can help out with the installation too. You can even run them through a manual on/off switch or a timer so you can keep your garden pain-free for pets and any favoured children during the daylight hours.

There did used to be a special chemical (called Renardine) which was very good at excluding badgers from a treated area. However, this was made completely illegal by the European parliament as it was made from ground up cattle bones. If you ever got a whiff of the oily brown stuff, you’d think it was made from something much worse than that (think “BP oil spill” and you are getting close).

So, here we are; an old lady with no money to put up a fence to keep badgers out of her garden asks for advice. It sound like she’s been contacting various people already, and she eventually settled on speaking to the DEFRA helpline. For any-one who has been living outside the known universe for a number of decades, DEFRA (and its predecessor government called MAFF) have been conducting the most appallingly blinkered badger-hating campaign since the late 1960s. Any reason to blame the badger, and DEFRA are there. Bovine Tuberculosis in cattle – that must be badgers who do that, is the DEFRA mindset. Never mind that the cattle skin test for bovine TB is less accurate than an MPs expense claim. It’s more important that you can blame an innocent scrapegoat rather than assess the science and see that the cheapest TB tests are hardly worth doing in cattle which might have been exposed to TB from their fellow bovines.

In case you hadn’t guessed already, the polite nicely-spoken young lady we were speaking too was from the DEFRA helpline.

They wondered if there was any advice or help we could give to the old lady. Methinks we’ve been in contact with her already – we are happy to give free advice about badgers and we are pretty sure we did so a week or two back. We try to help where we can, but some people don’t like to hear what the law is and then don’t agree with it anyway. Cest la’vie !In her circumstances we suggested she might like to contact her local badger group who would be able to see if there is a problem with badgers in the area around her garden. We also suggested she might like to ask the council to share the cost of the new fence which would be on their shared boundary – possibly sharing with the neighbours too.

Coming back the the DEFRA hepline, they were keen to know if we were aware of any-one who was able to pay for the old lady to have a new fence around her property. Errrr – no we weren’t..

They wanted to know whether we would be able to fund a project like this. Errrr – I know the government is skint, but asking private citizens to bail out other private citizens is a bit much…

Then Defra (a government department with a budget of billions and a staff of 10s of thousands and a call centre full of underemployed Media Studies graduates) asked the killer question! If they had any badger queries in future, could they give their callers our Badgerland phone number? Not bloody likely (unless they are offering a 7-figure Lottery grant)!!

If people want to contact us, they’ve a better chance by emailing us on

With kind regards

Simon Flory 

Badger Specialist