This story of the conflict between badgers and farmers in Somerset could hardly be more topical. As I was reading it, there was an announcement on the UK news about hundreds of campaigners from Gloucestershire travelling to London to take part in a rally against the plans to cull over 5000 badgers in Gloucestershire and west Somerset. The UK government’s best plan seems to be to allow farmers to do what they like, including night-time shooting of free-running badgers, to see if this proves to be a ‘humane’ way of solving the problem of bovine TB.
I’m no expert but I am prepared to bet that a lot of badgers will suffer, without any reduction in the spread of the disease. An article in yesterday’s Guardian comments that ‘Many scientists argue the cull will make matters worse, increasing movement of infected animals, as fleeing badgers take disease to new areas and vacated areas are colonised by animals from elsewhere.’ There are also reports in the news of animal rights activists targeting farmers and attempting to disrupt the night-time shooting.
Louise Hastings tackles the problem of anthropomorphism in a relaxed and engaging way, so there is a sense of reading the badger’s minds rather than imagining them speaking in human voices. Farmers don’t come out of it very positively, of course, although their dilemma is explained. I watched an episode of Countryfile recently where a farmer was devastated as he watched his prize herd being diagnosed with TB. It is a very serious problem but I really hope that this new book will make people think about the issues.