Change Alley

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Oh! Quel Cull T’as

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cull, kul, v.t. to gather; to select; to pick out and destroy, as inferior members of a group, e.g. of seals, deer. — n. an unsuitable animal eliminated from a flock or herd [Fr. cuellir, to gather — L. colligerecol-, together, legere, to gather]

It’s been a bad few days for wildlife. Hot on the heels of South Africa’s announcement that it is to raise a 1995 ban on killing elephants, the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has just published its report on badgers and bovine tubercolosis, recommending limited culling of badgers in selected areas.

These are very different scenarios, of course. Compared with other regions of Africa, the elephant population in South Africa is booming, having reached 18,000, including more than 12,500 in Kruger National Park, one of the country’s major tourist attractions. There are serious concerns over the effect this success story is having on other species and habitats. The reintroduction of culling is a conservation decision, which actually goes against economic concerns such as the impact on tourism. The UK’s vendetta against the badger, however, is purely economic, driven by prolonged pressure from the farming industry based on dubious evidence of badgers’ role in transmitting bovine TB to herds.

What both culls have in common is their misuse of the word ‘cull’. As the definition above suggests, it has connotations of selection and precision, a scientific ‘pruning’ of individual animals to improve the health of the population as a whole. This sanitises the fact that both ‘culls’ will be indiscriminate slaughter on a disgusting scale. Elephants are usually culled by shooting entire herds. This is presented as the most humane option, on the grounds that elephants are social animals who mourn their dead and whose young need to be taught social behavior by adults in order to survive. The badger report fails to shut the door completely on gassing as a kill option, which is just about as indiscriminate and unselective as you can get. To their credit, the committee admits concern that disorganised culling could make matters worse. However, their way around this is a co-ordinated cull covering a large area, sustained for at least four years. Again, no precision, just killing all badgers in the area, young or old, weak or strong, sick or healthy.

Perhaps if I start a badger farm, I can ‘badger’ the government into approving a cull of cattle herds to prevent them infecting my cuddly charges with their foul disease. It is, after all, cattle tuberculosis. Farmers should put their own affairs in order before decimating wildlife.

L.A. Times: ‘South Africa to resume killing elephants’ [registration required]

‘Badgers and cattle TB: the final report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB’


One Response

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  1. Very well said Pete.

    The RSPCA said it was a muddled decision that flies in the face of sound scientific judgement.


    February 27, 2008 at 3:06 pm

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