When Conservative Party leader David Cameron became British prime minister last spring, he announced that his coalition government would transfer more power to the people in an effort to build a "big society." Apparently, one of those powers in that society will be shooting badgers.
It's currently illegal to kill badgers in the U.K., The Guardian explains, but the government is poised to reverse the policy and allow farmers who obtain a firearms license to shoot weasels on their land. Cameron's Tories support so-called "badger culling" because they believe it could lessen the blow of bovine tuberculosis , which farmers blame badgers for spreading. Government figures indicate that 25,000 cattle were slaughtered last year because of the disease, costing the government over $100 million. Tory minister Jim Paice defended badger culling over other solutions like badger vaccinations by explaining, "If you put a high seat over a sett you could kill most of them fairly quickly." If that sentence is confusing to you, fair enough; we think he's talking about shooting at a badger's den from an elevated position.
The opposition Labour Party, however, is not happy about the prospect of legalized badger hunts. One Labour politician, Tessa Jowell, invoked the image of volunteers roaming the countryside with shotguns, adding "I am not sure what it does to promote tourism in Britain or encourage people to visit the countryside," according to The Guardian. The newspaper adds that this badger brouhaha is no minor controversy:
The trapping and shooting of badgers ... will almost certainly become what the fox hunting ban was to Labour--a hugely divisive issue, possibly sparking violent confrontations between animal rights activists and farmers.