By Anthony Faiola
Treborough, England — At dusk these days, the crackle of gunfire echoes through this normally tranquil patch of countryside. It is the sound calling Jay Tiernan once more unto the breach in Britain’s raging Badger Wars.
One of hundreds of Britons who have rallied to the aid of the nocturnal badger, Tiernan — an animal rights activist decked out in full camouflage on a recent evening — hopped in the back seat of an SUV parked in front of a village pub. He greeted two brothers-in-arms and quickly surveyed their arsenal of topographic maps, strobe lights, whistles and plastic bugles.
Their mission: disrupt a government-backed cull of an adored beast straight from the pages of English children’s literature.
But there are two sides to every tale. In the magical world of “The Wind in the Willows,” Mr. Badger was a cuddly curmudgeon with the wardrobe of a proper country squire. But in the real world, farmers here say, his kind have bred like ill-tempered, supercharged rabbits since becoming a protected species in 1973.
As badgers now run amok, they are spreading a plague of tuberculosis among cattle herds that has cost farmers and the British government a small fortune. A cull, advocates claim, is the only real solution.
But the notion of Mr. Badger at the wrong end of a shotgun has touched a fascinatingly deep nerve in this green and pleasant land, where the English maintain a near-obsessive attachment to their picture-postcard countryside long celebrated by poets, authors and master painters. In a country where even the coolest hipsters regularly skip out of town for a little bird-watching or just a “ramble” across emerald hills, taking aim at the badger has sparked an uproar that is claiming almost as much television airtime, Internet space and newsprint here as the Syrian civil war. More....