Preview: Will this cull work?

Scientists are trying to establish whether killing badgers will have any real impact on tuberculosis in cows
September 20, 2013
















Meles meles has lived across Europe in its black and white form for two million years... public affection for this animal is unwavering." (© Nature Picture Library)

Villagers informing on neighbours for shooting badgers. Videos of screaming badgers shared on social media. Badger killers in hired 4x4s with high velocity rifles so scared that the police have installed CCTV at their homes. Pronouncements from Judi Dench and Dappy of hip-hop group N-Dubz. A luxuriantly-coiffured rock star fighting for “brock’s rights”. An environment minister who has staked his career on “bearing down on wildlife” but who also lovingly tended to Bessie and Baz, his pet badgers, as a boy.

A satirical novel that devised such details would be dismissed as preposterous. But the story of this autumn’s badger cull is not simply a comically improbable, very British farce. It shows how little we know of a resurgent disease, reveals a crisis in farming and exposes a cultural fissure between the urban majority and the tiny minority who work on the land. Its outcome is uncertain but as well as defining a few individuals’ careers it may redefine our relationship with the countryside and the people, and animals, who live within it.

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