Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Killing Mr. Badger

Interest group action on the local level in the UK. (A special installment from the shores of Lake Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park)

Badger cull sets off a fight in Britain
In the magical world of “The Wind in the Willows,” Mr. Badger was a cuddly curmudgeon with the wardrobe of a proper country squire. But in the real world, farmers here say, his kind have bred like ill-tempered, supercharged rabbits since becoming a protected species in 1973.

As badgers now run amok, they are spreading a plague of tuberculosis among cattle herds that has cost farmers and the British government a small fortune. A cull, advocates claim, is the only real solution.

Badger fans not from Wisconsin
But the notion of Mr. Badger at the wrong end of a shotgun has touched a fascinatingly deep nerve in this green and pleasant land, where the English maintain a near-obsessive attachment to their picture-postcard countryside long celebrated by poets, authors and master painters…

In the current cull zone of western England, the operation is turning neighbor against neighbor, while drawing bands of volunteers from cities into “Badger Patrols” going out each evening. Wearing yellow vests to warn off stray bullets and occasionally packing night-vision lenses, the patrols are searching out vantage points where suspected hunters gather. They then let rip a barrage of blowing whistles and flashing strobe lights into the valleys, warning badgers back into their dens and trying to break the concentration of hunters…

Yet to the likes of Adam Quinney, vice president of the National Farmers Union and whose family has ranched cattle in England since the 16th century, the fierce opposition to the cull is a classic case of city-dwellers with a romanticized view of the country.

Last year, more than 28,000 head of cattle in Britain had to be sold to the government at reduced prices because of bovine tuberculosis, which officials say is being spread by badgers…

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