This is extremely disturbing news. Five thousand wild badgers could be killed in England by marksmen. The rationale for doing so is that tuberculosis cases in some commercial cattle have been increasing, and badgers are thought to be the cause.
Aside from the obvious animal cruelty involved, there is a potential public health risk for humans as well. Some of the badger shoots will take place at night in rural areas. It is reasonable to presume some of the badger hunters will miss their targets sometimes.
‘Allowing pot shots with high-velocity rifles at moving badgers in the dark self-evidently poses a serious risk to human safety. Their rifles have a range of a mile or more, so if they miss their target, where are the bullets going to go?’, said Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International/UK (Source: The Guardian) Somerset and Gloucestershire are the areas for the badger shoots. In order to kill 5,000 badgers, how many shooters will be trapsing through these areas with guns?
The Badger Protection Act of 1992 makes harming or killing badgers a criminal offense. It has been estimated that up to 10,000 badgers are killed illegally by baiting and digging. Additionally, another 50,000 may be lose their lives to traffic accidents.
A UK government website says, ‘Bovine TB is the most pressing animal health problem in the UK. It threatens our cattle farmers’ livelihoods and our farming industry as well as the health of wildlife and livestock. We must all work together to become TB free within 25 years.’ In 2012, 28,000 cows were killed in the UK because they were suspected of having TB or confirmed to have it.
Beef and other red meats have been linked to heart disease. Heart disease is a leading killer in the UK, “Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the UK’s biggest killer, causing around 82,000 deaths each year. About one in five men and one in eight women die from the disease.”
So, though it would not be initially good for the economy, switching away from cattle as a food source may be better for public health. Diet change is never mentioned as part of an overall solution, though it clearly could be. India may not have the same kind of bovine TB problem, and their attitude towards cattle is quite different. Animal-based agriculture is also linked to climate change.
In the reporting about the badger and cattle connection it has been stated that the economic losses in the UK due to bovine TB are an estimated 100 million pounds. In these same news accounts there are no facts about badgers contributing anything to their natural habitats. They do eat small rodents that are sometimes considered pests by humans.