In the United Kingdom, the government isn’t just listening to an industry lobby group. It is treating the lobby as part of the government, and even siccing police on individual protesters who disagree with the corporate agenda.
The lobby is called the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), and government has gotten in bed with it for one reason: to slaughter thousands of furry little animals. Police have tossed citizens’ civil rights to help farmers kill badgers.
The farmers argue that wild badgers infect cows with bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and therefore must die in annual mass culls, which this year began at the end of August. Even setting aside for the moment the civil rights abuses police are committing by acting as the farmers’ private security firm, the case for the cull is unconvincing:
1. No one knows how badgers communicate bTB to cattle. Without understanding the cause of the problem, it is irresponsible at best to insist that killing thousands of animals is the best solution.
2. Badgers are native to the U.K., where they are the largest carnivorous mammal. Messing around with their population will have unpredictable effects on the ecosystem and food chain because, as The Guardian notes, “we still don’t fully grasp the badger’s role in our countryside.”
3. Evidence suggests that vaccinating badgers against bTB reduces the incidence of the disease in cows. When foxes were believed to be spreading rabies in Europe, vaccinating them proved more effective than killing them in combating the illness.
4. Culls kill far more healthy badgers than infected ones. Even in the areas with the most cases of bTB, fewer than one in seven slaughtered badgers tested positive. That means six out of every seven badgers lost their lives for no reason.
5. Ten years of trial badger culls convinced the scientist who ran the long-term experiment that culling doesn’t work. Lord Krebs (his father was Hans Adolf Krebs, whose “Krebs cycle” you may remember from high school biology class) slammed the government for backing culls despite his findings. He said, “The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle.” He called the policy to continue culling “mindless.” The official report from the study concluded that ”badger culling is unlikely to contribute positively, or cost effectively, to the control of cattle TB in Britain.”
6. “Most scientific experts in this area” agree, according to The Guardian; they call badger culls a “costly distraction” from more effective and humane methods.
8. Vaccinations against bTB are available. Wales opted to use them instead of declaring unilateral war on badgers.
9. Shooting wild animals to death is cruel. Wounding them and leaving them to die of some lingering, grisly cause like infection or starvation is even worse.
It is in the name of this unworthy cause that the U.K. has sold out its citizens to the NFU, the pro-cull lobby group. The cops have arrested peaceful protesters, demanded their names, then passed the information on to the NFU so it can sue them. They have then “de-arrested” the individuals who, after all, did nothing wrong.
Law enforcement is open about the fact that it is doing agribusiness’s dirty work for free. Police have told protesters that they would give their names to the NFU. Gloucestershire’s police department admitted to The Guardian that they have given the NFU four names already, because they believe there is “a pressing social need” for them to use state powers to collect information and hassle individual citizens on behalf of business. The cops say they are concerned that cull opponents will harass the badger shooters, but there is no evidence that the named individuals did anything like that. Quite the opposite, in fact — if they had harassed shooters, the cops would not have rescinded their arrests.
The NFU has taken the free intel and run with it. Its law firm sent a threatening letter to at least one de-arrested protester.
It gets even worse. The government has refused to disclose its communications with the NFU on the grounds that they are “internal communications.” The U.K. is covering up documents, hiding them from citizens, by claiming that a business lobbying group is actually part of the government. Local attorney Gwendolen Morgan warns that if they get away with this, it “would be a very worrying development for democratic decision-making.” The Guardian reports Morgan’s concern that “it would set a precedent of secrecy for any lobbyists’ communication with government.” Chilling.
The badger culls are hotly disputed in the U.K. There is no consensus that they are good public policy, much less necessary. No one argues that they are integral to national security. In short, there isn’t even the ghost of a justification for police, while on the public dime, to provide free goon services to help companies kill wildlife to protect their profits. Nevertheless, the NFU has somehow persuaded the government to deter free speech in the home of the original soap boxes. Now it isn’t only the lives of innocent animals at stake in the badger culls; it is the fundamental human rights to protest peacefully and to governmental transparency.
You can help stop the madness: sign our petition to ask Prime Minister Cameron to cut it off at the source by ending badger culls.
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