On 22 March 2013, Dr Brian May wrote:
The Embarrassing Kind of Tory
Owen Paterson is not the sharpest tool in the box. Within days of reaffirming
his commitment to a policy of massacring thousands of mostly healthy badgers
this Summer, he now, with exquisite timing, reaffirms his commitment to bringing
back blood sports.
This is the man who embarrassed Cameron’s attempt at detoxifying the Tory
Party’s image, by voting against gay marriage. The mind already boggles. Now the
man whose line in cosy chat goes something like “Well, nobody wants to kill
badgers, but …” has perfectly revealed his true colours – the colours of the
nastiest kind of straight-forward old-fashioned blood-thirsty bastard Tory. For
the decent forward-looking humane Tory MP’s in the House, this man is an
embarrassment. To the decent majority of opposition MP’s Paterson is a
caricature of all that is indecent and insensitive in Cameron’s Government.
Were it not for Paterson’s clear indication, by his very existence, of the link
between those who like to kill animals for sport and those who are desperate to
make scapegoats of Britain’s badgers, Cameron and the NFU might just have got
away with it. They might have convinced the public that although ‘nobody wants
to kill badgers’ it’s a policy which these people are pursuing while crying into
their handkerchiefs. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is not a single expert outside the Government controlled DEFRA offices who
believes that culling badgers can play any meaningful part in the eradication of
bovine TB in British cattle. The consensus of informed opinion is that the cull
is likely to make matters worse for farmers, rather than better. Yet Paterson
and Heath cling to their own layman’s interpretation of what they call ‘the
Science’, to justify their ill-advised killing spree, which has already cost the
taxpayer in excess of a million pounds, and will cost us millions more by the
time they have done their bloody work this year. They cling and cling, and can’t
wait for the blood to flow. They evidently think it makes them look brave and
sexy. After all, they are heroes to the extreme end of the farming community who
are seething for vengeance and need a scapegoat. They are ‘doing something about
it’. Sadly, they are doing the wrong thing. One of the most ridiculous scenarios
of last year was NFU chief Peter Kendall arguing with the author of the RBCT
experiment, Lord Krebs, telling Krebs that his conclusions after a ten-year
study in which 11,000 badgers were killed, were wrong. If this weren’t such a
serious matter, it would be cause for great amusement. And in fact, this
pro-cull bunch are quoting the research of the very scientists who are telling
them they are crazy, to justify this carnage. You couldn’t make it up.
The badger cull is opposed by every animal campaign in Britain. Now functioning
as a coalition, under the title of Team Badger, supported by scientists, vets,
environmentalists, MP’s from all parties, and a growing number of enlightened
farmers, we will be working hard in the coming months to make sure every man
woman and child in Britain knows the true awfulness of what is about to happen –
nothing less than the destruction of badger families which have been resident in
this country for much longer than us Anglo-Saxons, and for no discernible
benefit for farmers. There will be no way back, once the shooters with their
high-powered rifles begin their dirty work.
The Team Badger petition against the cull, on the Government’s own website
attracted 100,000 signatures in record time last Autumn. The result was a 6-hour
back-bench-led debate in the House of Commons, at the end of which the vote was
overwhelmingly against culling. Shamefully, there was no reaction from the
Government whatsoever, apart from restating their intent to cull. The petition
lay dormant for a while, because the public believed that Paterson’s
postponement of the cull meant that democracy had won the day, and Team Badger
had saved the badgers. Not a bit of it. The Government did postpone the cull,
Paterson laying the ‘blame’ squarely on the NFU’s shoulders, not because of
Parliament’s vote, or popular opinion, or science, but because of their own
collective incompetence. They had neglected to get a proper count of the numbers
of badgers to be slaughtered, until the 11th hour, when they realised there were
more badgers than they’d guessed, and they didn’t have enough gunmen to pull off
the New Year, and especially since Paterson’s speech to the NFU confirming that
culling WILL take place this summer, the public rallied again, and the petition
closed on 07 September 2013 07:38 with 304,255 signatures.
Science, popular opinion and Parliament … the badger butchers have the supreme
arrogance to continue to ignore all three. But there is more.
This week in the House of Commons I was present at a hearing of the Government’s
select committee EFRA, in which various policies for controlling farming
diseases were being evaluated, including Vaccination, which is the sane
long-term solution to TB in cows, just as it has been in humans. The schemes are
all evaluated in purely economic terms of course. The assumption in all their
calculations is that the value of a cow is measured by its market worth as a
producer of milk, or for its flesh to eat. The value of a wild animal is zero.
This fundamental flaw in thinking reflects moral bankruptcy. To any decent,
unbiased mind, it is clearly unethical to kill thousands of innocent bystanders,
some of which have been infected by a farming disease which has got out of
control, in an attempt to solve the problem – even if we thought that the scheme
would work. But nobody has the courage to say “This is WRONG”. They can only
appreciate arguments based on money. Valuing a wild animal at zero is an
unacceptable position for a government to take.
Ironically, just a couple of corridors away, there was a conference about
Valuing Nature going on. This is a concept in which an actual value can be put
on animals and the whole natural world. This is the future. Man will have to
come to realise the worth of the flora and fauna around him, and put a price on
its head, to make it possible to reject plans like this which loose biodiversity
for our grandchildren, in economic terms which politicians can understand. So
eventually, like slavery, like burning witches at the stake, decisions to
indulge in behaviour like this will be entirely impossible to support.
But right now ? It is unlikely that this government will voluntarily take its
foot off the pedal in this matter. The only hope is if the British public
clearly say, with one voice – We will not stand for this .
Paterson himself is acting very smug, and grumbling about the fact that
organisations like the Badger Trust have been ‘slowing him down’. Well, that’s
democracy, Owen, though you don’t like to hear it. And democracy ought to be
strong enough to derail a hopelessly misguided policy such as this. Ultimately
the only safe solution will be to rid this country of the most animal-unfriendly
government on record. This folly, added to Cameron’s cavalier, out of touch,
attitude to the poor and the disabled, and the destruction of the NHS, will
surely ensure that the next general election seeing him hastily packing his
Paterson? Heath? They will be long-gone. Well, they were never the sharpest
tools in the box.
Brian May -
22 March 2013
A follow up to the article in Country Life.
(Amended on 07 September 2013 to include final petition signature total.)
It’s probably helpful to look at what the position is if we stop arguing about
the lame claims that the pro-cull, pro-cruelty team are making. If we allow that
their best claim is valid – we are looking at a paltry 16 per cent decrease in
bovine TB over the next ten years, assuming the public AND farmers will continue
to invest in the killing all that time. The cows will still be suffering. The
farmers will still be stressed and struggling, and relations between farmers and
the public will be in shreds, with a large section probably refusing to drink
milk from culling areas, and turning away from beef.
Was the destruction of Britain’s oldest inhabitants worth it ?
In the end, do you think this is justifiable?
In the end, it’s a moral decision and one which we must all make together. As
usual in moral decisions, there is only one right answer.
It’s noticeable that Paterson, for so long trying to justify the cull by
misquoting and cherry-picking scientific papers, has now, faced by outraged
opposition from the scientific community, has changed his tack. He is now trying
to convince us that the evidence lies in the experience of other countries. He
quotes Ireland and New Zealand as success stories for culling, but once again,
scrutiny reveals that this is not true. Over the next few weeks we will be
making the true stories known, and exploding the last lame claims for justifying
mass slaughter. It is unethical, scientifically unsound, against public opinion
and the will of Parliament, and it WILL BE A DISASTER FOR FARMING as well as
Britain’s precious wildlife.
There are many lame ways that fox-hunters try to justify the continuation of
this disgusting practice, but Paterson’s is one of the lamest, and easiest to
expose as nonsense. He is quoted as saying,
“No one is more keen than me to see the Hunting Act repealed because I
believe in the management of wildlife.”
This is an utterly fatuous connection to make. There are many ways of ‘managing’
wildlife’, and very often, as I am discovering first hand, the best management
is to leave them the Hell alone ! But if you enjoy killing, you want to maintain
a population so you don’t run out of animals to persecute. There is plenty of
evidence that the Hunts actively encourage the breeding of foxes for this
purpose. The assertion that fox-hunting is a way of controlling fox numbers is a
lie. The current generations of Red Foxes in Britain have mainly French blood in
their veins because they were imported from France when our own population was
wiped out by hunting in the 18th century. They were imported by the Hunts to be
quarry. Foxes disappeared in the Isle of Wight in the 20th century too, having
been persecuted to extinction, and new animals were imported for hunting. It’s
quite incredible that some farmers view the Hunts as ‘control’ for foxes. But
then again many farmers and villagers are intimidated and threatened by the
hunts, and realise that if they speak out against them they are liable to get a
fox or a pet nailed to their door.
Under this Coalition Government, law and order in the countryside has been
allowed to break down. An estimated 100,000 badgers a year are dug out of their
homes and ‘bagged’ to be used for the vile sport of badger baiting, in which
they are literally torn limb from limb by dogs, often having had their legs
previously broken so they can’t defend themselves. It’s certain that, if badgers are carrying TB, this will
accelerate its spread. Yes many farmers turn a blind eye, and there is not the
will at government to enforce the law, under which badgers are a protected
Similarly the law against hunting foxes with packs of dogs is routinely broken
by many hunts. They could offer no defence when the RSPCA recently prosecuted
members of the Heythrop Hunt, David Cameron’s own Hunt. What followed was a
disgusting backlash from ministers who questioned the RSPCA’s right to prosecute
these abusers. The RPSCA was, of course doing exactly what it is supposed to do,
fighting cruelty to animals.
Make no mistake, Blood Fox-hunting, as opposed to real drag-hunting with a
synthetic scent, is a vile and despicable sport. The people at its core are vile
and despicable people and, by their very nature, violent – to animals and to
humans when they get the chance. Under the Coalition Government, the law is not
being upheld, and these criminals are mostly able to go on indulging their need
to abuse, with tacit approval from the Government, who are thus complicit in the
law breaking, and the cruelty.
This cannot be allowed to go on.
These people must never again be given the
power to govern our country.
On 09 October 2013, Owen Paterson was interviewed on BBC'S
Owen Paterson was eventually sacked and Liz Truss was
appointed Environment Secretary.
Nevertheless in 2016 the Tories and David Cameron still have the power.
Nothing has changed for the better.