Badger Friendly Farming

Badger Friendly Farming has initially been created as a concept, some may say naively but it stems from one small woodland being surrounded by farmland.

Watching badgers through a trail camera, they are fascinating and fun, a few families from different setts rubbing along together, all big and healthy. We ID them, name them and follow their progress. We then find that some of those badgers live in the bordering hedgerow of the farm above. We also find out that the farmer surrounding us is not badger friendly and TB sensitive.

What can I do to protect these healthy badgers?

I emailed the Cornwall Wildlife Trust along with many badger groups to find out how I could get these badgers vaccinated instead of the farmer potentially culling. My approach to the farmer has not yet had a response.

I can’t sit and watch them be culled. I can’t sit and be helpless again when the cull zones are exposed. However, I am not an anti establishment, anti landowner or trespassing activist, I am simply wanting a more positive solution to the complex issue we face with bTB.

So how do I motivate my neighbouring farmer to let me help and not be a hindrance?

Over the next 8 months I find out just how complex the situation is. I attended many of the TB advisory meetings held for farmers in Cornwall to educate myself on their plight to eradicate TB in cattle. I found out how I could become a qualified vaccinator and secured a placement on the vaccination training with APHA through the help of Andy Robertson. I find that being independent of any current scheme and self funded is unusual and therefore will likely need to create my own scheme. I supported, volunteered and attended meetings with Cornwall Wildlife Trust to help move along future vaccination schemes beyond the current mid Cornwall Scheme funded by their supporters.

Is it time to take this to the farmers? 

Probably not! Whilst I continue my training and research, a tricky situation becomes clear. Farmers do not want to shout out about being a part of a vaccination scheme. Why, because of the NFU’s position on the cull, pressure from the cull companies and quite frankly, history suggests that our remaining largest land predator has never really held a place in the hearts of farmers.

We can’t forget that any wildlife that becomes problematic to farmers, the management/hunting of it becomes a pastime. Bears, Wolves, foxes, deer, crows and iv’e seen the evidence of previously dug out badger setts in recent months.

What I want is for farmers to reconnect with their customers again. I want Badger Friendly Farming to be a choice consumers can make, in the same way they do for free range eggs. Showing support to farmers and their better choices for the agricultural environment to rub along and coexist with the surrounding natural environment.

Would you like to see this logo stamped on a 2l carton of milk?

Who vouches for Badgers within the farming industry?

Although badgers are protected, badgers along with foxes and deer do not appear to have many provisions allocated for them within the Countryside Stewardship scheme. Apart from FG14  – A Badger Gate, that you will receive £135 for! The countryside stewardship concentrates on schemes and funding for pollinators, birds and some smaller mammals such as bats. At least this helps the ecosystem as a whole and the woodland schemes secure some habitat for these larger mammals, but being safe within it is debatable.

There are a great deal of worthy notable charities and activists helping and rescuing badgers, but often the speech is inflammatory to farmers and landowners and causes further conflict. However any individual, charity or scheme involved in vaccination such as the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, are doing their utmost to work with farmers and understand that controlling the spread of bTB is vital to helping both cattle and wildlife.

Why vaccinate not cull?

Surely farmers know that it is not acceptable to wipe badgers off the face of the UK, to end up in the history books alongside bears and wolves? Yet culling “to get the numbers down” can potentially spread TB further by the remaining lonely badgers travelling further to meet a mate. Vaccination on the other hand doesn’t change the behavior of badgers.

I have witnessed farmers opinions over and over and they say vaccination doesn’t work. Yet it reduces TB in badgers by 76%. I appreciate that the disease is complex in its excretion by an animal but If they don’t have it, they cant spread it, right? I also appreciate a vaccination scheme will take time to eradicate it completely in badgers but the disease and the failed solutions have been around for many decades.

I have also noted within the meetings that many bio-security and management measures are not really in play, such as the lack of knowledge in the ibTB site when purchasing cattle, or the paper trail to check where slurry is from whilst the bacteria remains in slurry for 6 months. After all slurry companies are spreading themselves and it, all over the environment. Until these elements are fully known and properly managed, the immediate and often only blame, “it’s the badgers!” needs to calm down.

Lets not forget the industry is just as responsible for infecting our wildlife as badgers are to cattle. If the country vaccinates we can all, both industry and consumer hold our heads up high and attempt to beat this thing together. If the cull continues, the industry and government do it alone, without the “end users” backing.

 

About the author: Angie Cruse

As well as working hard on the ground here in the UK, Angie has spent ample time volunteering in conservation abroad and continually studies habitat management in conservation.

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