As well as sculpting I am also known
for using art as part of my activism.
I have been opposing the badger cull since 2012 when I set up a badger vaccination team for the South Hams where I live and work. I've spent more time in badger cull zones than I wish to remember, including having a badger die in front of me in the West Somerset Badger Cull Zone in 2013. The body of that badger was rescued and tested for bovine TB, and like all of the other badgers rescued from badger cull zones then and since, it did not have bovine TB.
In May 2014 I lead the Great Badger Trail from Gloucester to the Palace of Westminster, (130 miles if you're asking), arriving outside Parliament on the eve of the 2nd year of badger culling resuming. Along the way, at a stop for speeches at Wallingford in Oxfordshire, I learned about the Badger Trophic Cascade for the first time. This is the knock on effect to the whole ecosystem of widespread badger culling. We will, and are, loosing up to 100 species of animals and plants, primarily ground nesting song birds, sea birds and wading birds as a direct result of the Tory and Lib Dem government's policy of killing a protected species in such vast numbers. Many of these species are already threatened, and this government-created Trophic Cascade will see local extinctions, some of them permanent. Current government policy is speeding up species extinctions in the UK.
I have been working on a sculpture of the Badger Trophic Cascade ever since. So far, I have not found a single sizeable public body brave enough to display this sculpture; the British Government have politicised Ecology and made exploring the consequences of their badger cull a taboo subject nationally.
In October 2016, on the last day of the 1st year of official badger culling in the South Hams, I organised a wake for the 2,000 badgers shot and killed for no scientific reason in my constituency. We prepared the ceremonial area by spray chalking the outlines of as many badgers as possible, from 4 month old cubs to fully grown boar badgers, all of whom would have been killed. We were aiming to do 2,000, the kill target for that year, but we only managed 800 with the red spray chalk we had available, but it still showed what a horrific number even 800 dead badgers is.
A small army of volunteers helped to spray chalk the outlines of dead badgers using the 18 badger profiles I had drawn and cut out. We then held a candle lit procession from the Market Square in Totnes, up the high street, passing more and more dead badgers until we got to the Rotherfold at the top of the high street, where the number of bodies became a flood. The candle lit procession was lead by local witch Jackie Juno, beating her drum. Then in the ceremonial circle in the middle of our sea of badgers, she held a very moving ceremony which had us all in tears. It was the first time I'd taken the time to grieve in 4 years of campaigning against the badger cull and I really needed it.
As the shot badgers are never shown to the public, and their bodies are immediately incinerated so that they cannot be tested for any evidence of bovine TB infection, most people have no idea what 2,000 dead badgers actually looks like. Following the rain, the streets ran red in Totnes with their blood. It was an overwhelming experience to see so many lives outlined in red chalk, knowing our ecosystems have suffered a massive tragedy that will take many generations to recover, and that given the resulting Trophic Cascade, many parts of the West of England will never recover the other species lost as a result of this huge wildlife crime, the biggest wildlife crime committed by a British government in living memory.
I hope one day to display my Badger Trophic Cascade sculpture on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square. We are witnessing a war against the wild in the UK, and so Trafalgar Square, named after an important battle, is the appropriate place. The plinth itself is shaped like a cenotaph, and I would like to redesign my sculpture so that the flood of species spilling out of the back of the badger ('Persecuted'), spill over and down the sides of the plinth itself. Sadly one cannot apply to exhibit on the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square, you have to wait to be invited. I hope the next Labour Government will address this lack of democracy. Our badgers cannot wait that long; our country needs to understand Trophic Cascades and how they work, right now. Along the west coast of the UK it is already too late to learn this lesson.