Amid the illegal fox hunts and government ordered badger culls, Brian May has optimism for the future of British wildlife, and it all comes down to a growing movement within the public. However, things are not growing fast enough for the animal rights advocate and Queen guitarist.
There is no minister for wildlife, Brian May told the audience at the Lush Creative Showcase 2017. With that in mind, animal rights are not always top of the agenda in the world of politics. However, he said the public is beginning to stand up against wildlife crime, and raise their voices in defence of the voiceless, namely foxes, badgers, and birds of prey. This is what gives him hope.
Brian brandished his ‘badge for common decency,’ as he sat down with Lush Co-founder Mark Constantine for a fireside chat at the event which celebrates creativity in innovation. Common decency, a campaign promoting colourblind politics (where the colour of your party is irrelevant), asks the electorate to vote for decent candidates, and not just the party they have always supported.
He said: “It’s not about parties, it’s about getting a decent house of commons.”
Bringing people in, he said, has been a theme this year. Could a coming together of people be the way forward in creating protections for British wildlife, where animals have equality?
Votes for animals
Fox hunting was recently back on the agenda, when during the snap general election the Conservatives promised a free vote in parliament on repealing the Hunting Act. This may no longer be on the cards, but according to leading charity the League Against Cruel Sports, illegal hunts are happening in vast numbers. They estimate that 200,000 illegal hunting incidents may have been committed since the act came into force in 2004.
For Brian, wildlife control and tradition are not justified reasons for fox hunting: "Fox hunting has nothing to do with control. It is cruel and it has to be eradicated from society."
He also rejects the idea that it is a sport: “There are people in this country who enjoy killing and maiming and do not want to have their activities curtailed.”
He said that the general public now understands that what is happening is illegal, and someone, somewhere, is allowing it to happen.
He claims the answer is not in repealing the Hunting Act, but in strengthening it, which he hopes to be a part of, “so that it actually has teeth.”
While fox hunting with hounds is illegal, badger culls are part of a government scheme to eradicate bovine tuberculosis.
“By doing this culling you are destroying whole families of badgers,” Brian said.
The latest figures from Defra show that badger culls in England resulted in 10,886 badger deaths between 29th August and 18th October 2016 alone.
While Brian is part of the movement working to vaccinate badgers, he says that defeating bovine TB is in fact down to better testing within the herds of cattle. Many reports support this, suggesting that the spread of bovine TB may be less to do with badgers, and more to do with cattle to cattle infection.
Perhaps lesser known than the plights of foxes and badgers, Brian also turned his attention to pheasants. He claims that 43 million of the birds are released into the British countryside every year, “bred purely to be killed.” They are shot with lead bullets, which contaminate the bird and make them unsafe to eat. In addition to this, the huge influx of the non-native birds has an impact on the country’s ecology.
As public opinion grows in favour of wildlife protections (like the 84% of the public in support of keeping the ban on fox hunting), the common decency movement is a reminder that everything is political, and that includes the rights of British wildlife.