A couple of people asked me why I am so against the cull. It's not just an issue that animals are being cruelly slaughtered, although that is a massive part of it. It is also that the cull hangs upon the thinnest of threads and is based upon bad science, ignorance and a total lack of reason.
Politicians spent £50 million on a ten-year study to see whether culling badgers would have any effect on the rates of bovine TB. The conclusion, by the government's own scientists, was that it would not. That's fifty million pounds of our money. And it found that slaughtering badgers would not reduce bTB rates. In fact, it may even increase bTB, as badgers from the cull zones scatter around the country.
Even those in favour of the cull say that at best - at best - after slaughtering 70% of our badgers, bTB rates would reduce by 16%. I'm sorry Mr Cameron, but that's not a good enough reason to slaughter a protected animal. Oh yes - didn't I mention that? Badgers are protected! They are supposed to be protected by the same people authorising their slaughter.
bTB rates are FALLING. bTB rates have been falling for 6 years without the need to kill badgers. But this government ignores all reason and logic.
And so the slaughter has begun. It is supposed to be independently monitored. By three monitors for Gloucestershire and three for Somerset. When there are dozens of shooting groups - how can three people monitor dozens of groups effectively?
They are not allowed to use dogs, other than to track, and those dogs must be muzzled. Yet there are numerous reports of dogs being used to 'finish off' wounded badgers - or in plain English, when a badger has been shot but not killed outright, dogs are used to rip it to shreds. That is illegal. It has been reported but nothing is done. Defra denies the use of dogs altogether in spite of the witnesses.
This is a bad, bad business. It is being led by vested interests and by the National Farmers Union who have enormous influence with the Government despite representing only 18% of farmers. Yes, you read that right, and it's not a typo. 18%. 72% of farmers are not in the NFU. When have the Tories ever listened to a union, let alone one that represents less than a fifth of the industry? those vested interests maybe? Well, the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is pushing hard for the cull, is the brother-in-law of one of the biggest landowners in the Gloucestershire cull zone. The brother-in-law is also massively in favour of the cull. Surely that's a conflict of interest?
The anti-cull movement has support from every section of society, that Big Society that Mr Cameron thinks is so important. The petition set up by Brian May closed on Saturday after gathering 303,572 signatures. It's the biggest e-petition ever, and what Mr Cameron & Mr Clegg ought to realise is that there are 303, 572 people in this country who will never again vote for their parties. Given that they had to cobble together this coalition just to grab power for themselves, can they afford to lose that many votes?
Anti-cull supporters are from all walks of life. Teenagers and pensioners, teachers and engineers, scientists and rock stars, middle class and working class, there is even a very strong anti-cull movement within the Tory party itself. One very brave 94 year old lady has this week gone on hunger strike to express her anger about the cull. 'Camp Badger' has been established in both Gloucestershire & Somerset, with protestors camping out, patrolling the footpaths in the cull zones and trying by peaceful and lawful means to disrupt the shoots. Wounded badger patrols go out every night in high-vis vets to look for badgers shot but not killed. There have been protest marches, protest songs, letters to MPs, letters to the media - this is a huge movement.
So why won't Mr Cameron listen to us all and call off the cull?
The science does not support the cull.
The public do not support the cull.
Farmers do not support the cull.
Vets do not support the cull.
This country is supposed to be a democracy. Of the people, for the people, by the people, all that sort of thing. The people have spoken - we do not want the cull. The Government is pressing on in the face of overwhelming opposition and overwhelming evidence. Mr Cameron, you do not represent me and you do not speak for me. Your pig-headedness and arrogance have made this law-abiding middle-aged woman, and hundreds of thousands like me, into a political activist. Your hands, and those of your Secretary of State for the Environment, will be forever bloodstained.