Have you been wondering what kind of people are out on the frontline defending the badgers? Here is an account from one such person. I am grateful that she does this as without people like her, the badgers would be defenceless.
Thoughts of a badger sab….
A friend asked me to write a few words about my experiences sabbing the badger cull in Gloucestershire and it seems especially timely as the cull, in Somerset which had just finished, has just been started up again and will run until November 1st. An extension to the cull in Gloucester, due to finish this week, has already been applied for.. So all activists in the field, about to complete six weeks of grueling sabbing are now facing 3 more weeks of same.. I am a former hunt sab – I used to sab the Cambridgeshire Foxhounds and the Puckeridge and Thurlow (as it was then) twenty-five years ago and I had no plans to come out of sabbing ‘retirement’.. Although not involved with sabbing any longer, I remained a committed vegan and have been for 25 years and am now raising vegan children. In spite of having no plans to get involved, I became increasingly disturbed by what I was learning of the threat to 5000 British badgers and also saw it as a vegan issue – without a dairy industry to protect, there would be no cull… As political means and record-breaking petitions failed, it became clear that nothing was going to save the badgers except people coming out to be with them in the field in their hour of need… So I decided to go and help and picked Gloucestershire because I had friends involved there and also a place to stay. In the two years leading up to the cull starting, dedicated activists scoured the cullzone and mapped the setts and monitored them to see which were active and which not…Then as the cull drew closer,setts were checked to see which ones had bait put down to draw the badgers into the open away from their setts where they could be shot.. ..As sabbing the cull has been organised in Glos, the most vulnerable (pre-baited) setts are all allocated badgersitters each night who then sit by their sett until morning…(if more people would come then more setts could have their own guardians..) This means that if gunmen come to the sett, according to health and safety laws, they cannot shoot if there are people close by and sabs have an opportunity to startle the badgers who should then return to the safety of their setts.. My own experience through this time began on the first night of the cull when I spent the night by a badger sett at Hawthorne’s Farm… it was an extraordinary experience as I sat in the field looking up at shooting stars (I wished on every single one of them..) and the Milky Way, identifying stars (and the planet Neptune!!) using the Sky map app on my ‘phone) and listening to the sounds of animals going about their lives around me… A fellow sab had to leave part of the way through the night and offered me a binbag to curl up in as I had, disastrously, come out without a coat, ..having got so hot and bothered on my journey to Glos, earlier in the day that being cold had been absolutely beyond my imagination… By morning I was as cold as I had ever been in my life as my binbag had filled with condensation but we had the satisfaction of knowing that ‘our’ badgers had spent a peaceful night.. As the weeks of the cull went on, I have been to Glos and done two or three nights each week and have grown closer to the badgers that I have come to protect.. In the earliest days we were worried that our presence there was preventing the badgers from coming out but we soon realised that the badgers were, initially, using a different entrance and simply heading off for food and adventure in a different direction.. But then in more recent weeks, their presence has become more obvious as they learn to ignore their sab companions and I hear them setting off in a large family group…it is usually too dark to see them and their markings provide an astonishing level of camouflage… but I hear them squeaking and mock fighting and even their feet pattering across the ground.. One even climbed onto my rucksack behind me one night..I don’t know who was more startled.. well, it was me, actually!! The sabbing itself is certainly not for the fainthearted and is a real labour of love.. I am saying that as someone well out of her comfort zone, doing this.. Even though an experienced hunt sab, through my involvement in sabbing foxhunts,I was used to playing a much more active role… observing the hunt, checking wind direction, rating the hounds off a scent etc etc but ‘badger sabbing’ as we call it (should really be badger cull sabbing, of course!) is a completely different.. While we always have people ready to jump in a car and head to any location that shots may have been heard or shooter vehicles spotted etc the bulk of the work is patient, cold, nervy sitting and waiting to see whether a hired assassin comes to try and kill the little souls under your protection for the night…. There are lights that need checking out: is that the torchbeam from the ‘spotter’ who works with the shooter to find victims? Is that the infra red light on a highpowered rifle? There are noises that could be gunshots or a car backfiring; there are spooky animal noises – both badgers and foxes make an enormous variety of noises some of them absolutely spinechilling..! The police presence here has been ridiculous – from the ‘Hey Guys’ from the hippy police liaison officer in his blue bib, wearing his friendship bracelets… to the heavy mob from the Met and West Mercia..everywhere we go we are followed and harried by them as they check sabs vehicles over on a nightly basis and generally try and hold us up and waste our time… While at the same time shooters’ vehicles drive around in convoy with the police…quite surreal at times… But an antidote to the depressing behaviour of the police, is the spirit and calibre of my fellow sabs.. they truly are a group of the finest people and I am humbled by the obstacles that many have overcome in order to be there: distance (I live 200 miles from Glos but somebody came from the US to sab the cull..); ill health – we have had sabs with circulatory problems, sabs on crutches, sabs with blocked arteries who were unable to walk very far; my 94-year-old friend who has heart disease came 200 miles to do her bit; family problems: I don’t want to betray anybody’s privacy but an amazing couple whose precious son has life-limiting illness, come in turn while the other stays to look after him etc etc So while many made their excuses and stayed home..many more dug a bit deeper and came anyway… And probably the fact that sabs are still frequently vilified by people who don’t understand our drive to save lives that we value as much as our own means that even though the nights have been long and cold and in many cases nerve-racking or upsetting – such as when we know we have lost one of the 5000.. an amazing by-product of this challenging task that we have set ourselves is the extraordinary camaraderie that has developed among sabs from all over Britain, in a small church carpark in Gloucestershire… We are a Band of Brothers and Sisters..we are the Badger Army Reporting for Duty… by Miranda Veganlatte
If you would like to become involved with sabbing the cull you can find some information on the link below :
This is our countryside, our heritage and we need to bring an end to this barbaric and senseless culling of our wildlife.
Previous posts about the cull :