A Day at Camp Badger

Notes from a visit to the Badger Cull Camp, by Care for the Wild Fundraising Manager Nigel Palmer

Setting off for the long drive to West Somerset, the car full of fresh vegetables from the allotment and some general supplies on a beautiful sunny August morning, I wondered what this day would bring – all intelligence said that the Government’s non-scientific badger cull would begin tonight in West Somerset and I was heading for Camp Badger.

After what felt like eternity on the A303 I arrived in the small town of Watchet and was guided in by the locals. The camp is based in an old car park but you can’t get a car near to it at present. The local police were present but unobtrusive beyond asking me not to take in cameras or mobiles…

Fully loaded with bags of supplies I glanced around to see various canvas covered creations and was given a very warm and friendly welcome. Having explained that I worked for a wildlife charity and had come to offer moral and physical support in the form of food and supplies I was invited to join some of the group for a chat.

The campaigning and lobbying work that Care for the Wild has done as part of Team Badger was widely recognised and supported within the group. It was a great chance to combine the active lobbying of politicians, NFU officials, scientists and farmers that we engage in as a charity with those who take direct action and make peaceful protest on the front line.

I was hugely impressed with the organisation and commitment of the group, some of whom had been mapping out the cull zone for nearly a year. The team are aware of all the sets throughout the area and their network extends throughout the whole of the cull zone. Setts located, populations monitored and badger movements recorded over a lengthy period of time – these guys know where the badgers are, where they go and what they do – it made me realise that this “volunteer” workforce, so willing to give their time to help badgers, would be better utilised in vaccinating badgers, working with the farmers in a positive way that would reduce bTB.

Instead, they are here making their point that this cull is wrong. The method of free shooting at night cannot be considered as humane, even more so because monitoring will be on 2% of the 5000 plus badgers they need to kill in the next 6 weeks. Worse still comes the confirmation from Defra that none of the badgers killed will be tested for Btb?! This simply doesn’t make sense and supports the thought that the aim is to shoot badgers to appease farmers and politicians with nothing else achieved.

I was taken for a walk around the local area, directly to setts, and had others pointed out to me as we walked around the Somerset countryside on a beautiful sunny afternoon. You can feel the enthusiasm for the cause, the respect for the badgers and the despair at the failure of our politicians to listen to reason and respect the findings of their own scientific studies.

Back at camp, preparations were being made for the evening meal as a long night lay ahead for those patrolling the area, monitoring the badgers and keeping their eyes open for the marksmen who are due to kill over 100 of these sentient creatures this very evening.

I left as dusk fell with a feeling of sadness and disbelief, as if I had travelled back 100 years to a darker and more barbaric age, and yet somehow reassured by the actions of this mixed group of individuals who are committed to doing all they can to protect our beautiful badgers.

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