Simon King Speaks Against the Badger Cull

The badger cull is being opposed by a huge range of people, including scientists, conservationists and celebrities with expertise in nature and wildlife. Highly respected wildlife expert Simon King, OBE, attended the Bristol protest against the badger cull and spoke out against policy.

Here are some excerpts from the Simon King badger cull speech.

Simon King OBE – TV nature expert

Simon King at Bristol Badger Cull protest

Bovine TB profoundly affects two industries: dairy and beef. I do empathise with those who run a business and find it collapsing around their ears. But that makes it all the more tragic that this travesty of a cull has deflected from the real issue – which is bovine TB, not badgers. As long as this government continues to focus on badgers and spends time, energy, money and lives, of course, on this cull, we will only at the very least see it remain the same and possibly get worse.

The answer must come from within the agriculture and farming industry. We must work hard towards changing the way we manage farming practices – tighter controls on movements, husbandry, and this extraordinary phrase ‘biosecurity’, which basically means stopping badgers from snuffling in feed lots and cattle feeding troughs.

Vaccination in the wildlife reservoir has been tested with many profound conclusions. For example, rRabies – in Europe rabies spread north. They found that foxes were reservoirs for this disease, so they started killing foxes, but that didn’t stop the tide – it made it worse. Because no one was looking at the ecology of the animal they were killing, and they didn’t know what we now understand about the perturbation effect. In Switzerland they have many Y-shaped valleys, with impenetrable mountain ranges between the two forks. Here was an opportunity to cull foxes on one fork of the Y, but to vaccinate against the disease on the other.

On the culling side, rabies continued to spread like wildfire, but in the valley where vaccination was applied the spread of the disease was stopped in its tracks. Why? Because the living territorial, and now vaccinated foxes prevented diseased foxes from progressing further north, whereas on the side where healthy animals had been killed the diseased foxes now had free passage to continue north and spread the disease further. 

We keep hearing from people who have been ill-informed by people who are giving misinformation. Owen Paterson is acting on what he has been told is true. But what he hasn’t absorbed is that badgers have a unique way of holding their clan system together with clearly de-marked boundaries. Studies prove that without a shadow of a doubt that movement of tb within those clans over decades is virtually nil. Why? Because happy healthy badgers stop other badgers coming into the area. But we know that if you start killing badgers they start moving into new areas. You only need to remove one animal to run the risk of spreading the disease.

When people start talking about possums in NZ, how phenomenally ignorant can you get? Possums are an invasive species that doesn’t hold territory or a clan. This is completely irrelevant but it’s used as a big guiding light as to what we should do. No it shouldn’t, it’s completely irrelevant.

Let’s think of vaccination as the one and only way to tackle TB. If I asked people here to put up hands if they are willing to go and help vaccinate badgers, how many will I see? (Cheers) Thank you very much.

At what cost? Nil. One way or the other we’ve got the workforce to achieve this. But even that is a distraction, because the problem is within the industry. What we need to do is look within the farming and agricultural industries, for their own sake as well as our wildlife and the health of the countryside.

When we talk about vaccination people say ‘well its only got 40% efficacy. Well then why did we all get the jab?

We’re dealing with a completely flawed system.  The testing is a very blunt instrument. We know that cattle remain in herds undiagnosed and they do so for their entire lives, not showing any signs of tb. It’s a problem that is endemic in the industry. We move more cattle across wider areas in this country than any other country in Europe, because we can’t ‘finish’ cattle in the zones where they are raised, so they are moved to other areas like Carlisle where there is a lot of food bringing them up to weight.

I eat meat, I’m a consumer. We are the people who drive this business with our money. If we continue to think we can do this on the cheap we are doing nothing but fooling ourselves. The % spent on food after the war was about 50% of household income. Now it’s only about 11%, and still we think it’s too expensive. The real cost of buying cheap chicken or meat is exactly what we are seeing now. No-one can run a business without somehow raping the very resource that we all know is vital to ourselves, and that’s the natural world.

What cost is there of at the loss of the very natural fabric that supports us all?  We have no idea of the implications of destroying that.