Sunday, 16 June 2013

Badger, the Real Daddy Cool

Another dawn, another day. Last night we had a lovely meal out at a local restaurant to celebrate my daughter passing her first year exams of her medical course and my son’s passing his first year of his college Land Management course, and notwithstanding the unmitigated success of the badger protection programme (Operation Mozart’s Magic Flute).  We raised our glasses and toasted each and every one of us. The night was amusing, witty and thoroughly enjoyable. 7:25am this morning I was awoken to the song of “Happy Father’s Day to you, Happy Father’s Day to you,” there they stood at the bed side, Jackie with the tray of tea, the two kids laden with presents.  We also do this ritual for Mother’s Day, ever since the kids were big enough to walk. Up onto the bed they all clambered, the bed seemed to have shrunk, probably down to the fact that Sophie was now nineteen and Sam was a six-foot seventeen year old.  ”Open your presents!” they yelled, their excitement equally as great as mine. The star present was a rather splendid camera and their faces lit up as they saw my surprise and gratitude. Cotswold wildlife, get ready to smile!

 As they left the room, breakfast bound, I reflected on the time past of my own mum and dad who sadly had died before Sophie and Sam were born. They were irreplaceable like all parents are to any child: all that advice freely given from the heart for the sole purpose of the child’s future happiness. You never realise what you’ve got until it’s gone. A huge loss also for Sophie and Sam, Grandchildren and Grandparents, a special kind of bond in any family was not to be in ours. 

Years ago, I made a little film following a family of badgers in their day to day existence. The accompanying tune to the piece of film was Bony M’s “Daddy Cool” - it makes me smile as much now as it did then. I thought this tune quite apt, and this post apt on this Father’s Day, because of me becoming so fond of who I called “Old Daddy Cool”: the dominant male of the sett who made it his sole duty to protect and do the best for his family. The film was a very rough-around-the-edges affair but it gave a very clear insight into badger behaviour. I had followed them over a period of about eighteen months or so, it was quite fascinating to see how they go about their daily business, a definite ‘live let live’ culture was the order of the day. The mother as well as father would reprimand the cubs and keep them in check when play got out of hand, all seemingly done for the sett’s best interest; no anti-social behaviour orders here. They looked after their own in a truly caring loving environment. Diet was mainly made up of large amounts of slugs, worms and seasonal berries, the odd snake or two would always be welcome if the chance were to arise. What I also saw was the potential for a national badger cull to cause havoc in this beautifully balanced environment. Whilst there is no doubt badgers can pass on bovine TB to cattle, wholesale slaughter is not the solution either (look back to my second post on this page “George Would Have Told Them to Keep Dodging the Lead”). My concern is, once a protected animal has that status removed it can so often open the flood gates to the camouflage  trouser, combat jacket brigade that can cause so much destruction and misery in our precious countryside.

All those years ago one bright August dawn, when I was taking the films, my opinion of culling badgers was set in stone forever.  I remember quite vividly my walk up to the sett that warm carefree morn.  The combine harvesters had finished cutting the wheat and a thick swath of straw lay on the ground awaiting the bailer. As I entered the spinney something was wrong.  No bird song!  As I got closer, no robin, “you always see the robin before you see my badgers,” I thought. Just then, I averted my gaze to beneath an elder tree, there lay a dead dog; it was a Staffordshire bull terrier, a badger baiting dog. As I looked further, there was another two. I turned to go across to the sett. I didn’t want to as I knew what carnage was about to greet me. Over on the old play mound there he lay, Old Daddy Cool, his family lay scattered around him, all of them displaying horrific open wounds, they had been ripped to pieces. Looking at the shocking devastation I could see that he’d fought like a lion to protect his family but the odds had been just too great.  I fear with the government’s badger cull policy and the protection being lifted from badgers in certain areas, the odds could easily become far too great for the badger again. We must all stand up against these abhorrent crimes. Things have moved on a little thank goodness, due to the work of Sir David Attenborough, Dr. Brian May and many other influential big hitters. The Lord Protector of our woodlands needs all the help he can get.
The Robin, the gardener's friend, will often be found where earth is disturbed; wild boar, pigs, badgers all provide the robin with a nice easy meal.

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