Monday, 9 February 2009

All Hail the Protected Badger

From Winscott Barton healthy fields stretch on and on.
The colourful squares of blue flax and yellow rape
disappear with the distant moors on the horizon.
In the nineties it was not usual for farmers to grow
rapeseed for biodiesel and flax for fabric and dye,
but these paid government schemes make up the view
that used to be full with a flock of healthy Suffolks.

Eight years on and the scant compensation is spent,
On burying and cleaning and disinfecting, the farm
only just surviving, but with no money left for stock.

But what farm needs a flock with DEFRA’s
[1] help?
Inspections reveal a rare bird in a tuft of grass
so they say we must, we really must have a plan
a DEFRA protection plan for that tuft! We must!
What’s that? Lots of bats? Well, it is a farm barn –
they can protect the bats? Why, we must do that!
And the badgers! Who cares about tuberculosis
and how their warrens ruin fields? We can’t afford
cattle anyway so let’s protect the damn badgers!

Eight years on the small farmer relies on paid acres
of rape, swedes and wildlife protection schemes,
but never a scheme to restore a farmer’s lost flock.

The millennium saw blistered mouths and jellied hearts
starve our two thousand black-faced Suffolk Ewes,
seven hundred lambs and a dozen rams. Then shot
and rotting for a week before being piled on a pyre
to burn and smoulder and stink by the kitchen window.
And eight years later we’ve spent the compensation,
not on new stock but on rules and badger protection.

[1] The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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