James Delingpole

Why on earth do we think badgers are charismatic?

3 November 2012

Did you know that the badger is one of the most charismatic creatures in our countryside? It says so on an advisory leaflet produced by Scottish Natural Heritage called ‘Badgers And The Law’.

The document doesn’t make clear which aspect of badgers is particularly charismatic. Perhaps it’s that they are prone to collapsing during evangelical church services and babbling in strange tongues. Or perhaps it’s that with their rakish stripes and their dusk-till-dawn social hours they’re widely known to be the life and soul of every party.

But the more likely explanation, I fear, is that the author of those words is doing what psychologists call ‘projecting’. Probably he’s read Wind In The Willows, seen a few episodes of Autumnwatch, bought one or two greetings cards with jolly, waistcoat-wearing Mr Brock characters on them and formed his judgment accordingly: badgers are more than just badgers, they’re like humans in black and white fur, only nicer than humans obviously because they’d never dream of using nuclear weapons or turning a gay couple away from a B&B or destroying the planet through their wanton selfishness and greed.

Look, for the record — and more importantly, for the benefit of any homicidal animal rights nutcases reading this — I too like badgers. But I also like hedgehogs, lapwings, dairy cattle and human beings. And I really can’t see why, just because Mr Brock has got an engaging stripy face and a poodle-haired guitarist from a high-camp 1970s rock band really rates him, he deserves special protection rights which trump those of all his competitors in the ecosystem.


One of the more dangerous misconceptions of the environmental movement is the notion — plucked from the ether by influential ecologists such as Howard T. and Eugene Odum, and based on no evidence whatsoever — that the natural world is a stable system. Freed from man’s unwelcome intrusion, the theory goes, nature will return to a state of perfect balance.

You only have to look at the current badger problem to realise this is nonsense. Apart from the Ford Mondeo the badger has no natural predator, so since in the early 1980s legislation made it illegal to kill badgers, their population has rocketed to unsustainable levels. The consequences have been disastrous: TB in both badgers and cattle has soared; hedgehog and ground-nesting bird populations have been devastated; farmers’ livelihoods have been destroyed; vast sums of taxpayers’ money — the figure last year was £100 million — have been squandered; and Britain is now at risk of having an EU ban on all its beef and dairy exports, at a cost to the economy of more than £2 billion a year.

So what to do? For the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson — who, having tabled a record 600 parliamentary questions on the subject, knows and understands more than the rest of the Commons put together — the answer’s obvious. He’s seen the evidence from the US and Donegal (which in short space effected a 96 per cent reduction in bovine TB): culls work. Try telling that, though, to Bill Oddie, Brian May and all the rest of the ragbag of bleeding-heart celebs, eco-terrorists, opportunist politicians, left-liberal media outfits and activist scientists opposing the ban. Sure, they’ve managed to come up with any number of superficially plausible ‘scientific’ reasons as to why culls don’t work. But as we’ve seen with ‘climate change’, if you’ve decided in advance what your conclusion is, it’s amazing how easy it is to manipulate the ‘evidence’ into saying whatever it is you’d like it to say.

No: the real reason for the opposition to the badger cull is ideological, not scientific. Partly it comes from mawkish sentiment, partly from the green movement’s instinctive loathing of any form of capitalist enterprise (even dairy farming), and partly from its ingrained, self-hating misanthropy.

Once, in the days before Christianity was replaced by Gaia-worship, we instinctively understood that the natural world was man’s dominion. But then came a shift — noted by the economist Julian Simon — in scientific textbooks. In old ones, birds were evaluated according to their benefits for humanity generally and farmers in particular; in newer ones, mankind was evaluated for its effects on birds. Where before the human species had been enjoined to ‘be fruitful and multiply’, now it was little more than a ‘cancer for nature’.

To bunny-huggers schooled in the relativist traditions of the modern environmental religion, this might make superficial sense: why should the life of a badger be considered any less valuable and meaningful than that of a dairy farmer? But even if you accept this on an intellectual level, it simply doesn’t work on a practical one. For millennia, at least since the days when man developed the skill to clear trees and work the land, the natural world has been an artificial construct.

Without man’s intervention, forests grow spindly and overcrowded, weeds and pests proliferate, top predators run riot, biodiversity diminishes, habitats shrink, variety is lost, species weaken and grow more vulnerable to any number of vile diseases. I’ve little doubt that, given the opportunity, Mr Brock would most heartily agree with me. ‘Give me a nice peaceful death, humanely gassed in my sett, any day, than a slow, painful demise, shivering and emaciated from tuberculosis.’ Unfortunately, though, I can’t prove this because unlike the charismatic, waistcoat-wearing, stripy-faced fellow in Brian May’s imagination, Mr Brock isn’t an honorary human. He’s just a badger.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.freeman.7165 Richard Freeman

    Jesus, what a tory gobshite you are. Do some research, its poor farming methords that cause TB and the cows give it to the badgers. Right wing moron.

    • http://twitter.com/Duhhicky Matthew Lange

      How about a link?

      • http://twitter.com/michealjroberts Michael Roberts FRAS

        Some respectable scientists believe that cattle must meet several conditions before they can catch TB. The argument goes that rather than getting TB immediately they are first exposed to the TB bacteria, the cattle must have most of the following conditions: climate history, certain vitamin deficiencies, compromised immune system, intensive living conditions, high-stress lifestyle, lack of natural immunity to infection and disease, and multiple-exposure to the TB bacteria in a short space of time. In other words, cattle which are raised in natural field-based conditions, with minimum use of anti-biotics and other drugs, low-stress organics lifestyle are much less likely to succumb to TB infection. In organic terms, the higher incidence TB in cattle in the south-west of England is more likely to be due to more intensive cattle-rearing and animal husbandry, than the presence or otherwise of TB-infected badgers.

  • http://twitter.com/queenjuliamay Mrs Freddie Mercury

    we need to help and #saveouranimals #saveme

    • http://twitter.com/wiffen Paul Wiffen

      Would much rather #savouranimals

  • Patrick Cosgrove

    Dear James, I am left liberal, disagree with your politics and dislike your Tory chums, but I happen to agree with you on this. I suggest that you spend less energy on stereotyping people and more on backing up a good argument with evidence. Regarding hedgehogs, for example, DEFRA already has published research to show a strong correlation between the increase in the badger poulation and the alarming decrease in the number of hedgehogs. Get hold of that and trumpet it rather than turn an important issue into an opportunity for cheap politicking

    • http://twitter.com/grannyonline1 grannyonline

      hedgehofs are being killed inthier millions by farmers spreading tons of slug pelletrs on fields!!! Kill the badgers which eat snails, then they will overun by snails which cause liver fluke in cattel, another disaster in the making??? IDIOTS!!

    • Tarquin

      There is no evidence to suggest badgers are the cause of hedgehog declines. Correlation is NOT causation. If you have pier reviewed scientific evidence, then please give me the link, but i suspect you havent. As a liberal i really think you ought to pay more attention to the science and less on blind prejudice.

      • http://twitter.com/wiffen Paul Wiffen

        I love the idea of scientific evidence being reviewed by Southend or Brighton pier. Of course with climate change ‘evidence’ I suspect that most of it has been!

  • http://twitter.com/grannyonline1 grannyonline

    total crap!!! You should be ashamed

  • Fred

    He’s just a badger. And you’re just a tory prick.

  • Alan Petrie

    Complete and utter idiot. We have the best wildlife in the world and we should be protecting it and not destroying it as this government and the NFU are hell bent on doing. Really cant understand the governments attitude to this matter. Public opinion is dead against it, scientific eveidence says it wont work, parliament voted against it after a lengthy debate and yet Owen Paterson says it should go ahead.

  • Ian McMullen

    In future before putting pen to paper (or even, finger to keypad) try doing you research.
    You will then not come up with so much drivel that people mayvbe able to reaf your article without laughing at your stupity.

  • RoseG

    It’s called bovine tb for a reason, but you my little closed minded a hole wouldn’t understand that now would you. As for Christianity being replaced by earth worship again if you did your research you’d learn that this country was full of earth worshipers before Christianity came and took it over.

  • Diane

    We have no predators either why not cull us

  • Patrick Cosgrove

    Dear grannyonline, how about areas of livestock farming where slug pellets aren’t used, badgers proliferate and hedgehogs are non-existent?

  • http://twitter.com/orchid_b Jamie McMillan

    Calm down dear… and when you’ve sobered up get someone to explain in words of one syllable what the scientific results show, and why the report of the RBCT said that a cull could make no meaningful contribution to bTB control.

  • http://twitter.com/michealjroberts Michael Roberts FRAS

    What a pathetic right-wing no evidence twat this “Delingpole” is. Why can’t he just for once stop berating people who have genuine concerns, stop labeling them as eco-facists or bunny huggers and accept that the scientific opinion yet again is that the cull is a waste of time and money. It is political posturing, give people what they want and that will get votes. I remember Charles Clarke under Labour doing the same thing. Against all the evidence and all the research, he sided with the papers. Scared to lose votes. Again, an article full of straw-man articles and caricatures, someone equating concern that the cull is not as effective as other potential methods as being ideological. On another topic of Delingpole’s delight is climate change. Somehow he manages to distort the many anthropogenically skeptical scientists into climate change deniers. No, again some skeptics simply feel the evidence of causation is unknown as yet, and more data is needed. That is my position. However, to state that there has been no significant warming since 1998 when in fact there has (and there has been a sustained warming since 1880) is just ludicrous. But someone, this scientifically illiterate twerp gets an article to spew out his pathetic right-wing views. I’m really done with listening to Delingpole, he is the UK’s Glen Beck. This country’s Rush Limbaugh.

  • Eddiestrange1

    Please try to ignore the abuse from the badger fetishists. An excellent article. Thank you.

  • amphibious

    Without man’s intervention, forests grow spindly and overcrowded, weeds
    and pests proliferate, top predators run riot, biodiversity diminishes,
    habitats shrink, variety is lost, species weaken and grow more
    vulnerable to any number of vile diseases.
    ” There, in the moron’s own words, is the best example of his idiocy. I enjoy the Speccie as a sheltered workshop for undead thatcherites but never-dun-nuttin types like Dingpolecat would be despised by MrsT for the wannabe, groveller that he is.

  • http://twitter.com/AyatollaClaytor ♠ Nick ♠

    Eco-Fascists up in arms, excellent.

    • Tarquin

      Excellent, keep the name calling going. It does nothing but help us to label everyone against the badger cull as an ‘eco fascist’ or ‘eco-taliban’ or ‘extremist’ etc

  • rumplestiltliver

    This idiot Delingpole is uninformed, but doesn’t let that get in the way of giving us the benefit of his ignorance.
    It is BOVINE TB, caused by Mycobacterium bovis, and found in cattle. Infected cattle then pass it to badgers. Delingpole then wants to murder the innocent badgers!!
    You have to be a special sort of ignoramus to write his type of rubbish.

  • rumplestiltliver

    You must have the hide of a rhinoceros, Delingpole. Everyone who actually knows the facts disagrees with you, but you carry on regardless—-how?

  • http://www.facebook.com/norma.kearton Norma Kearton

    For goodness sake, so this is The Spectator? You need to find some good journalists who write well and objectively. I could do better myself and I’m not trained or paid.

  • 1965doc

    “Why….do we think badgers are charismatic?”
    Because they are, Delingpole.
    You are not.

  • Richard

    why are we giving this idiot space in our national press?

  • 1965doc

    Quite how Delingprat can continue his ridiculous assertions without any evidence to back them up, is beyond me.
    He cuts a ridiculous figure and his only support seems to be from the swivel-eyed loonies of the Daily Telegraph. He is really not worth wasting any more time………

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