Killing Badgers Is Mindless, Pointless Brutality

Vernon Coleman

It is a myth that badgers spread tuberculosis (TB) to cows. The evidence shows that cattle movements spread TB among cows. And it is cows that give TB to badgers - not the other way round. Killing badgers is just an excuse farmers make in order to avoid having to face the truth: that modern farming methods are inhumane and unhealthy.

Wild animals are often accused of spreading disease to `farm' animals. Wild badgers are blamed for infecting cattle with tuberculosis, wild boar are persecuted for spreading classical swine fever to commercial pigs, deer have been killed lest they carry foot and mouth disease and bison are slaughtered lest they spread brucellosis to cattle. Even the hedgehog has been accused of carrying numerous dangerous diseases which might affect people or domesticated animals.

The belief that wild animals are the cause of illness and disease spread among domesticated and farm animals is a well-cultivated but unsubstantiated myth.

Farmers who perpetuate these myths invariably claim that the wild animal concerned has somehow acquired a natural immunity to the disease and is, therefore, able to remain symptom free while still being a threat to farmed animals. There is no scientific evidence to supporting this claim. And if the claim were true it would, of course, be scientifically illogical to kill the wild animals because they had successfully developed immunity to a disease.

Today's farmed animals are weak and susceptible to disease because of the confined, unnatural and stressful conditions in which they are kept and the poor and often unnatural diet they are given.

There is a lesson to be learnt from the fact that wild animals, which must fend for themselves and which are deprived of antibiotic cover and the other luxuries afforded domestic animals, are generally much healthier, and suffer far less disease even though they are exposed to the same parasites and pathogens as domestic animals.

But it's not a lesson farmers are likely to learn. They claim to understand the countryside and to care for animals. Most don't understand nature very well and don't care a jot for animals - except as items on a balance sheet.

When wild animals fall ill in large numbers it is usually because of a violent, new problem - pollution, drought, overcrowding or the invasion of some new pathogen (usually introduced by human beings).

Farmed cattle are sickly and prone to tuberculosis because of the appalling conditions in which they are kept.

Farmers who blame badgers when their cows fall ill are simply looking for an excuse; a scapegoat.

But don't tell them this. When farmers hear about a new animal they want to kill it. And so they'll start wandering around, guns blazing, in an attempt to kill all the scapegoats.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2011