Brian May's Olympics badger badge sparks anger and praise
Did Queen guitarist use Olympics to make political statement about controversial badger cull?
DID BRIAN MAY make a political statement about a controversial badger cull while performing at the Olympics closing ceremony last night? The Queen guitarist's decision to wear shoulder patches depicting a badger and a fox has been praised by wildlife lovers while farmers and countryside rights activists have called it "appalling" and "disappointing".
The animal emblems could be seen as May and singer Jessie J performed their rendition of Queen's We Will Rock You in front of a global TV audience.
The legendary guitarist, who also has a PhD in astrophysics, has been vociferous in his opposition to the Government's controversial plan to conduct scientific trials aimed at fighting bovine tuberculosis. The trials will involve culling thousands of badgers. In July, May said it was "ludicrous" that a vaccine for cattle was not being used instead.
Last night his stage outfit drew a flurry of comments. While Danny Boyle's opening ceremony two weeks ago celebrated a green and pleasant land, denizens of the rural idyll seemed divided by May's badger badge.
The Countryside Alliance wrote that it was "appalling to see Brian May making a political statement with his fox and badger badges" while field sports photographer Country Lady Amy called it "very disappointing".
Dairy farmer Pete Ledbury accused the guitarist of "sticking two fingers up to the people who make the British countryside what it is".
But Alice Bell, a science writer with 9,500 Twitter followers, praised May's actions and suggested the cull had been postponed until after the Olympics because police would otherwise have been unable to handle the expected protests. This, she said "makes Brian May's reference to it in closing ceremony more pointed".
The North Wildlife Trust, meanwhile, tweeted that May was "rocking out for wildlife, amazing!"
May has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Farmers were forced to slaughter 25,000 animals in 2010 alone to curb the rising number of tuberculosis infections. But many opponents argue that culling actually runs the risk of making bovine TB more widespread. A decade-long landmark trial found that badgers displaced by culls simply carry the disease elsewhere. It also discovered that, at best, the incidence of TB was reduced in the cull area by just 16 per cent after nine years.
A badger vaccination programme is to replace culling in Wales following a successful legal challenge there. But the Badger Trust's high court bid to stop the cull in England failed last month, meaning culls could begin as early as September.