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From Badgers to Elephants: Killing in the Name Of...?

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This week the secretary of state for the Environment, Owen Patterson was brought before a Parliamentary Committee to defend key policy issues - including the embarrassment of DEFRA's badger cull. The cull has now become, as predicted by every credible expert prior to commencement, a truly farcical failure and a stain on the government's already grubby British wildlife and environmental policy.

But, it's not just the pointless killing of thousands of badgers that we need to be worrying about, albeit that fortunately, owing to high levels of arrogance and incompetence, the numbers killed by the end of the original six week target were much less than the original 'scientific' target of around 5000. The wider problem is that society seems so hell bent on killing everything that moves as its first and final policy solution.

Let's look at British wildlife first. In addition to the badgers, recently we've seen the authorisation of the destruction of buzzard nests and eggs - another so called protected species - simply as they were interfering with pheasant shooting...

We've also seen the authorisation of common and grey seal shooting (both 'protected') in Scotland as they, being seals, were interfering with salmon farming. Then there are brown hares: currently they can be shot at any time of the year, just not sold, thus leaving nursing young hares to die in their burrows.

Despite experts pushing for a closed season, the government instead agreed on 'a voluntary code of practice' which will depend on the discretion of the shooters. This code (surprise?) was written by the Countryside Alliance and the shooting fraternity. Oh, and you've guessed it - brown hares are also 'protected'.

Should everything with legs or a fin really have a price on its head in the UK?

Away from home the same applies, from continent to continent, from coast to coast. Money and corruption drives the mass slaughter of elephants and rhinos across Africa for their tusks and horns, both now facing extinction within the next decades.

We sit by and watch as orangutans are displaced, beaten and killed so we can dunk our cheap ginger nuts into our tea whilst reading about the impact of palm oil on far flung habitats. We fly to exotic places but moan when the roads are bumpy and the hotel spa isn't warm enough, so we unknowingly demand more - more infrastructure, more roads - do we really want to tolerate three hours down a mud track to see a cheetah in the wild? Hell no, build us a motorway so we can get in, take the photo and get back to our all-inclusive and digest some more palm oil.

We have a responsibility for our actions. I'm not preaching, we are all part of this - it is almost hard-wired into our DNA, but it must change.

The only good that has come out of the badger cull to date is that it has enraged normal folk, turned them into peaceful campaigners, pushed them to sign petitions, lobby their local MPs who they never knew existed and rise up together to participate in protests up and down the country to make their voices heard. But, armchair campaigners take note - we need you. Your country needs you. The world needs you.

We can't sit by and watch this killing. Slash and burn is not en mode anymore. It is time to change how we value our wildlife and our environment and not unwittingly watch it being sold to the highest commercial bidder.

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