Queen of the May

As early summer sweeps over Britain, most people agree that May is a glorious time of the year. In some villages, it’s still a tradition to crown a May Queen, a gentle reminder of when, towards the end of April, the Romans would have paid tribute to Flora, the goddess of flowers. In May, badger cubs are growing fast, playing vigorously in and around their setts whilst their mums sniff the air for danger.

The presence of badgers in Britain pre-date the Roman conquest, the Druids, the Bronze Age and other ancient Britons by centuries. They were here long before rabbits, nettles and roe deer. The oldest recorded sett is in Cheddar Gorge and has been consistently inhabited by consecutive generations of badgers for some 30,000 years. Imagine the world they inhabited then. The most recent Ice Age was yet to come and Britain was still physically attached to mainland Europe and bears, elk, beavers and wolves would have been wandering through thick woods that stretched west to east almost without end.

Today, unlike Europe, Britain has few of these large mammal species left. So, in simple moral terms, one would have thought our native badgers would have been valued in their own right. Yet this Government is hell-bent on killing thousands of them in a morally unjustified and non-evidence-based policy. Quite simply, it is dirty politics driven by blind prejudice. But this is nothing new, so why should we give up our time to stand up for any animal and why badgers in particular?

Desmond Tutu, South African social rights activist and Anglican bishop, hit the nail on the head: “The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked”.

And why badgers? The badger cull is an attack on a native mammal that is without precedent in any country in modern times. As such, we shouldn’t – and can’t – stand by and watch from the sidelines. It is our wildlife, our natural heritage that is about to be decimated for no good reason at all.

As the 21st century unfolds, we need to reclaim our wildlife. Our woods, despite the fabulous shimmer of dark blue bluebells, would be sadly impoverished without the subtle presence of badgers. Likewise, our hedgerows, even though they’re thick with the overriding scent of hawthorn, the blossom of May, would be much the worse if they weren’t well trodden highways for generations of badgers

Right now, few direct actions have involved so many people from all walks of life for such a sustained time. The Badger Action Network is here to help both individuals and groups continue to protect the real Queen of the May – Meles meles – our native badger. Have a look around the website and please make a pledge right now to do everything you can to help protect our British badgers. Good luck!