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Live and let live
It was a relief to see that the Government decided not to go ahead with the proposed badger cull in England that would have seen many thousands of these fantastic and much-loved animals trapped and killed.
The jury seems to be out on whether cattle give badgers bovine TB or the other way round but badgers - and other wild animals - certainly carry the disease and spread it, something a cull would only accentuate as badgers roam far and wide and move into area that had been cleared, creating a reservoir for the disease again.
It seems to me that this is a case of all or nothing - either kill every badger in Britain or learn to live with them and reduce the amount of cross-contamination on farms while working to introduce a bovine TB vaccine that, surely, is far behind schedule seeing as though we have been vaccinating cattle for lots of other diseases for years.
As these days, thankfully, we are living in much enlightened times and totally eliminating a native animal from our shores would be beyond the pale, it will have to be latter option. Gone are the days when we made the bear, lynx and wolf extinct and, more recently, almost wiped out grey seals around our coasts, otters in much of England and predators of gamebirds and livestock like polecats and martens.
Now, a lot of these species are returning to their former haunts and taking their places in healthier ecosystems but man still loves the control the countryside and reduce or eliminate any species that gets in the way of his money-making activities or hobbies.
Is an area of pasture a bit damp and ‘require’ draining no matter how many species of bird use it to feed or breed? Don’t worry, just stick in a land drain for the sake of efficiency. Are hedgerows stopping you making the most of your small fields no matter how rich it is as a habitat and how ancient it is? Don’t worry just grub it out.
We should be working with nature, or at least accommodating some of it, but no, even today in a lot of the countryside, animals and plants just seem to get in the way.
Heather moorlands cloaking much of the upland around the district are almost completely a human creation and require management otherwise they will return to the forest they once were. But why should practically all of it be managed for the benefit of one bird, the red grouse, when there are so many other species that depend on it which are equally as deserving.
The answer? Because people will spend hundreds of pounds shooting them. And the result? One of our most magnificent birds of prey, the hen harrier, is shot, poisoned, trapped and destroyed by gamekeepers.
Likewise red kites, buzzards, peregrine falcons and golden eagles share the same fate because they possibly threaten man’s possessions.
We still spend hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies to landowners and farmers to produce food when market prices are going through the roof. Why can’t we instead pay them to look after this green and pleasant land more sensitively instead, leaving space for flora and fauna and maybe even paying for every badger sett looked after or hen harrier chick raised rather than every litre of milk or tonne of wheat produced. And, while I’m about it, for every mile of footpath and bridleway, yard of hedge or acre of moorland, wildflower meadow, wetland, reedbed and woodland.
Then, perhaps, Bradford Council would not feel obliged to lease Ilkley Moor for shooting to produce income for it to be managed with the result that every predator will be blitzed and many other species trodden under foot in order to provide optimum conditions for a few grouse to be hunted.
Why can’t the badgers be left in peace and the famous moor be turned into a nature reserve where every species can have its space and where people can be given a taste of the beauty of nature.