The badger is one of those animals to have shuffled its way into the human imagination. My first exposure to badger folklore was when my father told me that a harassed badger could be uncommonly fierce, and that, like a wolverine or a Tasmanian Devil, he packed a punch beyond his diminutive size. This idea of a small British creature taking on large dogs, or even wolves and bears, appealed to a young boy’s imagination.
Around the same time, I read about Badger from Wind in the Willows. Badger was short-tempered, intimidating, and did not suffer fools gladly – the fool, of course, being Mr Toad. Bill Murray’s badger character from the recent Fantastic Mr Fox film fought – or “cussed” – with George Clooney’s Mr Fox. Badgers have also featured in stories by Richard Adams, Beatrix Potter, Lewis Carroll, and in an episode of The Simpsons.
Badgers have been eaten and used for their pelts in various parts of the world. Until the 1800s, they were subject to baiting in the UK. Things have somewhat changed. Now badgers in Britain (the European badger is called Meles Meles) have greater security in the form of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which prescribes criminal penalties for harming or killing the animals. Prior to that, they were gassed in their setts to prevent the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB).
As I write, badgers are once again in the news in the UK. Brian May has just led a demonstration in London against the Tory Government’s plan to cull some of them. May, from the rock group Queen, released a very Queen-esque snippet – a short song of protest called Badger, Badger, Badger. This old rocker is an eloquent spokesperson for the anti-cull side. He is joined by Bill Oddie, for many years an enthusiastic advocate for wild British creatures. Oddie is now looking as fiercely resolute as a wounded badger. Some other celebrities, plus the Badger Trust and the RSPCA, are similarly set against the cull. Continue reading Vet Ethics: A badger brouhaha