I might as well call myself ‘the neurotic birder’. I jump when somebody sneezes behind me, or if small creatures make sudden movements in my direction. I’m mildly afraid of heights, mildly afraid of the dark, mildly afraid of large bitey-looking things that don’t have backbones. You name a phobia, I’ve probably got it. That said, all these are in very mild form, hardly life-altering. It just means I’m mildly on edge throughout most days of my mild-mannered existence. All I really want is a quiet life, and a nice cup of tea. Is that too much to ask?
However, modern life having removed most of the immediate primal dangers from our existence, I as much as anybody can extract enjoyment from adding a frisson of danger to a day. A taste of what it really would have been to be afraid. Some people ride on rollercoasters or go swimming with sharks or climb overhanging rock ledges above a thousand-foot drop. They’re nuts, but good luck to them. I, on the other hand, prefer to do really dangerous things. Climbing small hills in the Lake District. Poking around in the bushes looking for insects and spiders that actually aren’t at all dangerous. Holding a blue tit even though it will peck me (vicious little blighters, blue tits). Going for walks at night along safe paths that I know quite well. Yes, I’m a thrill-seeker.
Badger badger badger….
Badgers. The most over-common* mammal in the country. Breaker of fencers, destroyer of gardens, killer of hedgehogs. An unwelcome disease vector, an out-of-control omnivore: there are too many of them. Something should be done.
Badgers. Our best-loved furry resident, the beloved old Brock, star of children’s stories from The Wind in the Willows to the Chronicles of Narnia as well as the most inspired internet meme of all time. Emblem of the Wildlife Trusts, this countryside superstar should be protected at all costs, especially after a history of cruel persecution.
Britain’s most divisive mammal then? Perhaps so. But a more fitting title might be Britain’s most cunning. Forget Mr. Fox – true, he often displays pluck, and impressive ingenuity whilst raiding a well-fortified chicken house. But for his troubles, he’s long been hounded; the culling of foxes, whether for sport, conservation, or at the behest of a vote-seeking Boris Johnson (him again!), is not and probably will never be as controversial as the possibility of a badger cull. No, the badgers display true cunning – what other animal can combine a healthy population status and massive capacity for destruction, whilst enjoying the highest level of legal protection of just about any other animal on these islands?*