A few days ago I attended my first anti- badger cull rally, in Exeter, SW England (my nearest city). We marched from Belmont Park and through the town centre, with police escort. We ended up in the central pedestrianised zone of Princesshay.
I enjoyed the badger masks and the painted faces. I enjoyed the feeling of comradery on the march, although I felt a little on the outside. I despaired along with everyone else at the complete lack of science behind badger culling, which has been going on for fifty years. It is not disputed that cattle pass TB (tuberculosis) on to badgers, but there is no evidence that it happens the other way round. One of the speakers at the rally said that if the currently apathetic public knew the truth of what was going on, the truth of the government’s scapegoat policy towards badgers, it would be enough to end the reign of the Conservatives and trigger an emergency general election.
The problem is, the public generally have an ignorant trust of the people in power, whoever those people are. There is a cognitive bias in human beings, myself included, of trusting authority. Whoever is in power, most of us trust that they would not dare to implement a policy of genocide of native species, on no scientific basis, just to keep safe the votes of the farming community as a whole, not all of whom believe the lies they are told about the effectiveness of such culls. The culls are a cynical ploy to unite farmers in favour of the Tory government, and show that the government couldn’t care less about the actual problem of bovine TB, which is better treated by vaccinating farms and introducing stricter hygiene procedures.
For me though, the larger issue has to be climate breakdown. As this article shows, methane from livestock is a contributor to climate warming and thus the climate breakdown that is beginning to reach disastrous levels around the world. Additionally, inefficient farming practices result in nitrogen being released as nitrogen oxide and other greenhouse gases, further contributing to global warming. The use of artificial nitrogen fertilisers is most associated with livestock farming. (Of course, nitrogen is naturally occurring everywhere, but that is not the issue. The issue is an artificial increase in greenhouse gases). Moreover, if we, as a species, ate less meat and dairy, and cared more for the livestock that we did keep, not concentrating them in industrial complexes where diseases like TB spread more quickly and affect more animals, then quite probably the extra inhumanity of badger culls would not be resorted to. The badger culls are a ‘face saving’ measure, hiding the gross effects of industrial farming on animals and the planet.
So I handed out my cards to the cull protesters, for the non-violent direct action (NVDA) I will be engaging in this autumn to pressure the government to act more radically and immediately on climate breakdown. As I did so, I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated. Badger culling is obviously a horrible practice, but surely the best way to stop it, along with so many other practices damaging to our environment, is to address the umbrella issue of climate breakdown. This wasn’t mentioned by any of the speakers at the rally. One of the demands of Extinction Rebellion of which I am part, is that the government reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. This would necessarily involve the decline of industrial livestock farming, as well as many other environmentally destructive practices.
I admire the passion and commitment and moral force of the cull protesters I marched with, and how much more of a force for change they would be if every one of them also campaigned, just as strongly, on climate breakdown.