The RSPCA revealed this week that an e-petition against the Government’s badger cull had achieved a “record number of signatures“, with more than 260,000 people (and counting…) signing up to protest against the shooting of badgers as a way of combating bovine TB.
This huge figure makes “Stop the Badger Cull” the best supported petition of its kind – although that’s not particularly surprising, particularly when you bear in mind the emotive aspect of the subject matter, the active support of numerous popular celebrities and plenty of prime-time coverage for the cause (including BBC’s The One Show).
However, it’s probably fair to say that the majority of those signatories were not persuaded into it through the use of indisputable facts and figures – mainly because such figures do not exist. If they did, Defra wouldn’t consider killing badgers in the first place, would it?
This problem has been ongoing for years, during which time UK cattle farmers have had to jump through hoops (slaughtering livestock, introducing improved cattle controls, improving biosecurity and participating in pre-movement testing) while the Government “ummed and ahhed” over culling badgers for fear of public backlash.
So, now Defra has finally found the backbone to agree to these pilot culls, wouldn’t it be counterproductive to allow a petition (however big) to put a stop to it?
Yes, this petition’s figures are impressive. But if you want to be fair then you should also note the NFU’s YouGov poll from May 2013, which showed that only 34% of people surveyed were opposed to a badger cull – 27% of whom would change their minds if it stopped bTB from spreading to other areas of the UK.
Extrapolating, that means 66% of the British public either support (29%), don’t know (22%) or have no strong feelings (15%) about a cull – the equivalent of a petition with more than half a million signatures (504,705).
But the guitarist from Queen isn’t promoting that petition, is he?