VIDEO: Rock star Brian May warns that badger cull is wrong
Rock star and countryside campaigner Brian May has warned supporters of the badger cull they are taking the "wrong path" as he led a rally against plans to kill thousands of the wild animals in a bid to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle.
The guitarist with Queen, one of the world's biggest rock bands, also told a crowd of more than 200 people that he had used his musical talents to produce a new song for the badger campaign.
May, now a doctor of astrophysics, later told the Western Morning News: "What we're saying is that if you save the badger, you save the country-side and you save the cows as well. You will not the solve the problem by killing."
The rock star, who is vice president of the RSPCA, urged farmers to "take a look at the evidence" before authorising killing badgers on their land.
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He called on them to support a vaccination programme of the species instead of a cull.
Mr May, speaking after the public meeting in Taunton on Saturday, added: "You have to wonder why the Government is clinging to this policy that is not supported by science, not supported by the public, not supported by parliament, and that will not help farmers. Any farmer who believes the statistics will have to spend money and what he's going to get in return is nothing."
His warning comes less than six weeks before the Government-authorised cull of badgers in the South West.
A coalition of charities and wildlife groups are campaigning to stop the cull across three pilot zones in West Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset under the name Team Badger.
Gavin Grant, RSPCA chief executive, branded the cull as a "national disgrace". He said: "It is simply not good enough to declare 'Something must be done' when the something to be done is entirely the wrong thing to be done – either for the wildlife or for the cattle, for the wellbeing of our countryside or for the farmers who make up that countryside."
Mr Grant said the cull would make no "material difference" to bovine TB, saying that six out of seven badgers killed will be "perfectly healthy".
The coalition claims the Government is defying public opinion, the will of parliament, and even some farmers by pressing ahead with the cull.
Steve Jones, a retired dairy farmer spearheading a 'not in this farmer's name' campaign, claimed the badger cull would add further misery to an industry already in "freefall".
He said: "The fact that we're losing cows hand over fist shows farmers are stressed, the industry is stressed, and the environment is stressed. To kill badgers is going to put even more stress on the industry."
Team Badger has criticised the Government for pushing ahead with the cull – designed to wipe out at least 70% of badger populations – over a period of six weeks from the beginning of June.
Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International, said it would "devastate badger populations and communities across huge swathes of our countryside, and cause untold suffering".
Mr May said he hoped to recruit actor Brian Blessed to help with his badger song – a revised version of the 'Badger, badger, badger' cartoon by animator Jonti Picking.