Badger-human conflict: an overlooked historical context for bovine TB debates in the UK
Reason for embargo
In Britain, the question of whether to cull wild badgers (Meles meles) in order to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in domestic cattle herds has been the source of scientific, public and policy controversy for over 40 years and still shows no sign of resolution. This chapter takes a step back from questions of animal health policy to focus instead on the wild animals at the centre of this debate, to ask why proposals to cull this particular wildlife species have provoked such intense and sustained controversy in this place and time. It will examine how badgers have been represented in British cultural sources as far back as the 10th century AD, and will compare these representations with the strategic framing of badgers in contemporary debates over bTB in the UK national press. Such framings take two opposing forms: the ‘good badger’ as epitomised in Kenneth Grahame’s children’s novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’; and the less familiar ‘bad badger’: carnivore, digger, and carrier of disease, and have strong commonalities with human representations of many other contested 'pest' species. Long term continuities between historical and contemporary representations of badgers suggest that underlying today's public controversy over managing bTB is an older ‘badger debate’ about the proper relationship between these wild animals and humans. The implications of this finding for current debates over bTB policy will be explored, including the potential to reframe the question away from reductive 'yes/no' debates over culling, and the potential of applying human/wildlife conflict frameworks to mitigate at least one factor driving today's highly polarised controversy.
This chapter appears in a larger collection published by Berghahn Books (http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/HillUnderstanding).
Volume 9 of series: Studies of the Biosocial Society
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher via the link in this record.
Cassidy, A. ‘BADGER-HUMAN CONFLICT: An Overlooked Historical Context for Bovine TB Debates in the UK’ Ch.4 in Understanding Conflicts About Wildlife: A Biosocial Approach Edited by Catherine M. Hill, Amanda D. Webber and Nancy E.C. Priston. Berghan, 2017
Place of publication
New York; Oxford