A New Pest in the Countryside

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As gamekeepers, it’s important we keep up to date with any new threats from the pests and vermin that threaten to undo all our hard work. Predator feels duty bound, therefore, to alert you to a dangerous new pest at large in the countryside – the common badger hugger, Latin name Brianus mayii. For a quick overview, I can do no better than reproduce here an extract of a report published recently in the respected scientific journal, International Studies in Anthropomorphism:

The badger hugger is instantly recognisable by its whining call of ‘Stop the cull’ and prominent bush of fuzzy grey hair artfully brushed forward to conceal a receding hairline. This creature has become very prevalent lately, causing considerable concern to gamekeepers, farmers and other right-thinking folk in the countryside.

Indeed, many country dwellers have become so agitated by the sight of a Brianus on the BBC that they have been observed shaking their fists at the television and ejaculating “You, you rotter!” or similar. We hear reports of one farmer who was so overcome with emotion that he required treatment with a nice cup of tea and a Hobnob in order to regain his composure.

It is thought that Global Warming may be causing this creature to leave its familiar urban habitat around international airports and recording studios, where it poses little threat to our native wildlife and countryside way of life, and indeed has produced some stonking good tunes in years gone by.

Increasingly it is spreading into the countryside, leading to fears of significant damage to biodiversity. The creature looks quite harmless and is known to be largely herbivorous; certainly it does not predate upon game or livestock, although it may carry a considerable parasite burden.

The main risk from this pest is that it emits a stream of toxic guano which threatens to upset the delicate balance of wildlife and sustainable farming…’

Yes, it’s our old friend Brian May, who in happier days played his famous home-built ‘Red Special’ guitar alongside Freddie Mercury in Queen, writing hits such as ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’. He is a national institution, remembered for blasting out ‘God Save the Queen’ from the roof of Buckingham Palace at the 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Nowadays he is more familiar for his high profile campaign against the government’s planned cull of badgers this autumn – stepping with gusto into a new role as figurehead for a motley collection of bunny-huggers and animal rights campaigners.

You have to wonder if there is some strange disease that afflicts fading entertainers as they approach retirement age. May, now 65, follows in the footsteps of Bill Oddie, Paul McCartney, Annette Crosbie and many others who appear to have decided time is running out to make the world a better place for all the fwuffy animals.

It would be easy to write off May as well meaning but a bit soft in the head, but that would be a mistake. He is a complex and clever character, with plenty of cash to fund whatever hare-brained scheme takes his fancy. In January 2011 The Sunday Times Rich List estimated he was worth £85 million. A fraction of that would fund the League Against Cruel Sports bigwigs’ expense accounts for years. May has certainly produced some highly professional websites and graphics for his ‘Save Me’ and related campaigns, and that doesn’t come cheap.

May makes a big deal about his ‘scientific’ background. In fact, he achieved an honours degree in Maths and Physics, then embarked on a PhD in astrophysics, studying space dust. He abandoned science for a career as a musician, much to his father’s disappointment. Much later he returned to his studies and completed his PhD, His thesis ‘A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud’ was published in 2008; you can buy in on Amazon for a mere £51.84. So he is perfectly entitled to call himself Dr. May, although it’s hard to see how that qualifies him to express a scientific opinion about badgers, any more than a GP would pass judgement on space dust.

May’s interest in saving animals seems to have come relatively late in life, although he says “I have felt passionately about respect for animals all my life.” He turned his Surrey home into a wildlife sanctuary, and told BBC’s HardTalk that he would rather be remembered for his animal rights work than for his music or science. predator_2

His ‘Save Me’ campaign was set up in 2010, in the run-up to the general election, and focused on opposing moves to repeal the Hunting Act. “I realised that we were probably about to get a government which would try to bring back blood-sports,” May told the eco-activist Resurgence magazine in spring 2012. “I was so appalled, I decided to try and spread this knowledge as widely as possible through a campaign of information. We will never know how much difference we made. We got a coalition instead of a conservative majority – so Cameron’s plans did not have an immediate effect on hunting, as they would have had under a conservative government led by him.”

More recently, May has taken on the badger cause with gusto, infuriating even uninterested parties by hijacking his Olympic closing ceremony appearance to promote his animal rights agenda – he wore a coat with a badger motif on one arm and a fox on the other.

He has proved to be an effective spokesman for the campaign against badger culling, gaining widespread coverage on TV and radio as well as in newspapers. His fame as a musician certainly helps, but he is also eloquent and comes across as sincere, caring and passionate about the badgers. Combine that with his scientific credentials and he is a dream interviewee – and convincing enough to persuade more than 100,000 people to sign an online petition in a matter of days.

Is he really that gullible and naive that he really believes his message, that culling badgers “won’t work” and is “an indefensible piece of rubbish”? Possibly. After all, his sort of science is about measuring dust particles; it never has to deal with uncomfortable choices of ‘least harm’ that politicians, as well as scientists in animal and public health, must face up to on a daily basis.

Plus his personal life has not been smooth. Wikipedia states: “He has stated in interviews that he suffered from severe depression in the late 1980s and early 1990s, even to the point of contemplating suicide, for reasons having to do with his troubled first marriage, his perceived failure as a husband and a father, his father Harold’s death, and Freddie Mercury’s illness and eventual death.”

All in all, Predator concludes that, yes, he probably does believe that he’s doing the badgers a favour, bless him. Unfortunately, due to his media-friendly image and campaigning skills, his misguided efforts are prolonging the suffering of badgers, cattle and dairy farmers alike. It reminds me of a song from the 1980s entitled ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’. It was performed by the band Queen, and written by a guitarist named… Brian May.

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