There is quite the vigorous political debate going on in Britain right now. And it’s on an issue so important that it’s brought together Meatloaf and Dame Judi Dench. (I really would love it if those two kids had a cooking show. I’d totally watch that)
Britain’s Parliament held a four-hour debate in the House of Commons this past Wednesday, and it wasn’t about public spending cuts, the war in Afghanistan, or abortion rights.
It was about badgers.
Yep, badgers. Sort of like that honey badger who doesn’t give a shit. Except, honey badgers are in Africa, so this is a different breed.
A badger, for those not acquainted with the species, is a mammal about three feet long with gray fur, a mouthful of sharp teeth, and a black-and-white face striped like a zebra crossing. Meles meles, the European badger, is indigenous to the United Kingdom, lives in an underground labyrinth of tunnels called a sett, and feeds on worms and grubs. There are about 300,000 badgers in England.
300,000 badgers in England!? Holy rodents outbreak! I lived there for seven months on a work exchange program in college and while I saw plenty of rats, I can’t say I ever saw any badgers.
The badger has been around long enough to have survived two Ice Ages, but if the Conservative-dominated coalition government executes its plan, some 5,000 will not survive two government-led trials that are the prelude to a culling policy that aims to reduce the spread of tuberculosis (known to be carried by badgers) in cattle.
Last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced its intention to test the “safety, humaneness, and efficacy” of culling by targeting 5,000 badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset—two infection hotspots.
As the proposed cull drew closer, the controversy widened to include celebrities like Queen guitarist Brian May, who led a protest march in London last Saturday and recorded a song called “Badger Swagger”; the rock star Meatloaf; and actress Dame Judi Dench, who posted a video on YouTube calling for a stop to culling.
Hmmm, I’m starting to see the problem here and I’m afraid the badgers are doomed. You’ve really got to try to get some more younger, high-profile people on this campaign. I love me some Dame Judi, but she’s hardly a Hollywood hottie. What about that Channing Tatum dude? He’s stuck in London filming a movie….let’s get him in on this.
Or, maybe we can turn badgers into a hipster mascot and get those folks from that show “Portlandia” to take up the cause. You know, those two actors who say “Put a bird on it,” all the time? Maybe they can do a PSA and say, “Put a badger on it,” or something. (I’ve never seen that “Portlandia” show, but I have heard about it, and apparently, American Express figures we all know who they are since they put the chick from that show in their latest ads. I had to Google her because I had no idea who she was.)
An anti-culling petition has 235,000 signers, and there’s an online threat of a voodoo curse on Environmental Secretary Owen Patterson, a hard-line advocate of the cull. Others have weighed in with tweets, blogs, and letters to the editors of British newspapers. “Cull the politicians instead,” one reader wrote the Daily Mail. On the other side, a farmer’s wife pointed out that “we wouldn’t be having any of this nonsense if this was about culling rats.”
Ah, farmer’s wives are just so practical, aren’t they? You are right, madam, I would not be riled up about some rats. But badgers seem, I don’t know, different. Larger, more cuddly, maybe? What the hell do I know? I’ve never seen one. It would probably eat my face off if I tried to cuddle one.
But seriously, British badger supporters, an online voodoo curse? Is this really the best you got? What next, a wishing spell? Listen, I’m not advocating violence or anything, but maybe you could step it up a tiny bit. Perhaps collecting badger poo and lighting it on fire on the politicians doorstep, just for example. Or signing the secretary up for some hunting magazines or something.
The controversy is full of biological complexities, colored by politics, and awash in contentious statements. “The policy appears to be little more than a sop to [the] farming sector,” the executive director of the Humane Society International/UK wrote in a piece on the website Badgergate.
Um, it sounds very bad indeed, especially when you add the suffix “-gate” to something, but I have to admit I do not have a clue what a “sop” is. Dangit, where’s my British to American dictionary. I must’ve left it at the nearby sop shop.
If the cull happens—plans are to use marksmen with rifles and shotguns—animal rights activists have announced that they will disrupt culling activity by blowing vuvuzelas, setting off fireworks, and shining lights.
OK, several things here: marksmen! Where does one find marksmen for hire? And what’s the pay for that? Also, so glad we finally found an additional use for all those leftover World Cup vuvuzelas. They’ve just been sitting around, collecting dust. Fireworks might be fun.
Exactly where and when will the culls take place? “We don’t comment on security matters,” a DEFRA spokesperson said.
Sure, sure. Quite obviously. I guess we’ll all just have to keep an eye out for sharpshooters, and people carrying vuvuzelas, fireworks and large spotlight equipment.
To learn more about our badger friends, I took a little stroll over to Wikipedia and found this disturbing fact:
In Russia, the consumption of badger meat is still widespread. Shish kebabs made from badger, along with dog meat and pork, are a major source of trichinosis outbreaks in the Altai region of Russia. In Croatia, badger meat is rarely eaten. When it is, it is usually smoked and dried or, less commonly, served in goulash.
Got it. No goulash in Croatia or shish kebabs in Russia. No problem. And no cuddling with sharp-teethed trichinosis carrying badgers. England, I leave you to handle this one on your own.
Maybe you guys should do like the “Game of Thrones.” I don’t watch that show either, but I know people got riled up by some “Red Wedding” episode last week. As far as I can tell from the Interwebs, some really evil dudes invited the good dudes over to their house for a wedding feast and then betrayed them and killed a bunch of them. Sorta like a Trojan Horse situation.
Anyway, maybe the British government should invite a bunch of badgers over for a worm and grub feast and then slice their throats. It sounds exceptionally violent, but apparently made for good TV. Personally, I’d rather see Dame Judi and Meatloaf make Shepherd’s pie, but that’s just me.