I have been aware of the debate on the culling of badgers’, on many levels.
I have a huge sympathy with the farmers and what they must be going through, with yet more losses of their livestock and livelihood, and their desperation to do something about the situation.
I also have an innate suspicion of the present government to the point that I believe that their support of the culling is more about their saving money that would have been spent in paying more compensation to the farmers for infected cattle, or investing in research of solving the situation that is proven to actually work.
I’ve worked with badgers in my art and spirituality for some time now, generally accessing their feisty earthiness and sense of family, and found them to be surprisingly powerful and totemic beings.
I became very ill after a particularly intense session working with a young road-kill badger, and although it has never happened with other animals which I worked with, I explained the three-day illness away as resulting from gas given off by the body in early decomposition.
However after giving a talk where I mentioned this strong reaction, I had a woman coming up to me afterwards with a story of a similar illness from picking up a badger skull at West Kennet burial mound. I later encountered a several other people who had incredibly intense results in working with the creatures so I started to think about them more deeply.
At a talk by Louise Hodgson where she mentioned plague roads and badgers’ dragging the bones of the human dead into their sett’s I had a revelation.
Badgers are psychopomps.
Badgers are tidy and methodical creatures. They don’t litter their own homes so storing bones in them is somewhat strange. They honour and respect their own dead, often in burial chambers akin to those of our own ancestors. I have found various types of bones in badger setts and the notion that they drag bones into their homes give an inkling of what we are destroying.
An animal that retains its sett for centuries and connects us with our own past and our own dead and therefore is an essential part (as all animals are but in this respect more so) of our present and our integral identity. Now I am no animal behaviorist, but I have worked with these creatures in essence, and I think they hold an important part of our selves within them; something we cannot allow to be lost
During the Vietnam War, the American government inadvertently found a way of seriously undermining the Vietnamese.
They bombed the rice paddies and fed the local people rice imported from the USA.
The bodies of the Vietnamese were also scattered in such a way that they were unable to visit and honour the dead.
As a culture that was ancestor orientated, and regarded visiting their dead as essential to living a good life; they also believed that the cycle of life revolved around the rice (to the point that the dead were buried near or in them) these tactics effectively undermined the identity of the Vietnamese nation.
Inadvertently or not, Governments find ways to undermine the sense of identity of people they rule as it makes them easier to control.
Badgers link us to our past and our ancestry, and mirror values and structure in our own lives.
Destroying them is destroying not ‘just’ another photogenic animal in the name of proving mans’ power over his environment; it is destroying something that holds a key to who we are as both a species and as individuals.