War on Wildlife

Hats off to the badger, he is black and white. He doesn’t fight, except for mating rights and territory.
-Bill Bailey

I wanted to keep this blog as objective as possible whilst still giving my, sometimes strongly held, opinions about the matter, But I fear this time I may give in to my more subjective side. Yep; on week two I’m releasing my impassioned, slightly ranty, bleeding-heart liberal self. It was going to happen eventually; might as well get it over with!

I’ve picked two topics to cover. They’re pretty much on the same theme, which is ultimately the way we human types interact with wild animals. There are, I feel, a great many injustices done by human beings to native animals around the world, more than I could possibly cover in one sitting. There are many injustices done by humans to other humans. The world is full of injustice. These two seem easier to fix than most, and yet even that seems such a struggle.

First we’ll tackle the simplest one, and the one which has hit the headlines most recently. Foxes. And I’m not talking about fox hunting, although I have plenty of thoughts on that (I understand that it’s necessary to protect chickens and other livestock from local predators, but I don’t understand why it has to be made into a cruel, barbaric sport.) I’m talking about the ‘growing menace’ that is the urban fox. Earlier this week a four-week-old baby, lying in his cot, was attacked by a fox. This is not the first incident in recent years. In 2010 twin baby girls were likewise attacked in their own home. The link between these two cases; both occurred in London. No longer is the fox simply a country dweller, preying on the farmer’s chickens or the odd pet bunny – now they’re after our babies.

Except that’s not really the case. It is? With the countryside dwindling before the relentless onslaught of housing developments, is it really any wonder that the foxes are moving to the towns to find food and shelter? And oh my, we’re providing it. Dustbins filled with leftovers make our cities a prime feasting spot for the cat-sized scavengers, not to mention all the buildings and their central heating systems, keeping back the cold weather of winter. We have made a haven for them, and then we are shocked when foxes do what foxes do – hunt for young and unprotected animals. We cannot blame them. What we can, and should, do is discourage them. Putting lids on bins would be a good start; better still would be to minimise our wastage. Buy only what you need; cook only what will be eaten. Close the doors and windows where children are sleeping so there is no path from the outside to their beds. Fans and air conditioning units can be used to keep the temperature down. If there is no food to be found in the cities, there will be no need for the foxes to be in the cities. It’s that simple. Gavel!

Second on my list of unjustly persecuted animals to champion are, probably quite predictably, the badgers. Cousins to my beloved pet ferrets and portrayed so fondly in television shows and books, they are the subject of one heck of a debate. It’s all to do with the cows. The British beef trade is, I believe, rather a big deal, and there’s this nasty disease called Bovine Tuberculosis which is quite damaging to the meat industry. Like, really, truly, terribly damaging to the meat industry, costing millions of pounds. And, of course, it costs the lives of entire herds. Where do the badgers come in? Well, unfortunately for them, for the cows and for the farmers, it transpires that badgers are able to carry the bovine TB disease, and it seems to pass between the two species fairly well.

There are, to my relatively un-researched mind, several solutions to this problem. Investing in badger-proofed fencing, a systematic vaccination program to immunise the badgers and stop the transmission of the disease, or even working with the EU to allow the trade in vaccinated cattle so that the cows can be treated to prevent them from getting it in the first place. What did they pick? Yeah, they went for option D; kill all the badgers. I can’t imagine that there would be that much money saved in the cull of a native species (well, only 70% of the species, let’s not exaggerate) compared to the other possible solutions. Now, really, you don’t even have to vaccinate all the badgers to stop the spread; so long as you’ve got a significant proportion of the population immunised, the remainder will likely be so dispersed that if they were to get it they would be unlikely to pass it on (see the Wikipedia link for a better explanation).

I could go on, but I’m already late for posting this. Ultimately my point is twofold. One – just vaccinate the badgers. You’ll save the meat industry AND not destroy an indigenous species, and Brian May will be happy! And two – we human beings need to take a long hard look at ourselves. We have outgrown the natural order of things. We have stepped out of the prey-eats-predator world where Darwin’s rule of survival of the fittest is law. We have become the game-changers in this world, and in that capacity we have to learn how to accept responsibility for our actions. Entire species are being displaced as we claim this world acre by acre. Intricately balanced ecosystems are being torn apart, and one day we’re going to go too far and there will be no wildlife left; just domestic animals we have bent to our will. That is not a world I want to live in.

Respect the planet and the creatures who live on it before it’s too late. Gavel!

Discuss…

Articles which inspired this post;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21399709
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19890114
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20534842
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity

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