Brian May slammed for 'cynical publicity stunt'

THE Farmers Union of Wales has slammed legendry Queen rock guitarist, Brian May, after he appeared at a protest on the opening day of the judicial review into the Welsh Assembly’s proposed badger cull in north Pembrokeshire.

The Union said his appearance at the protests was a ‘cynical publicity stunt’ and accused him of having no idea about the suffering of those farmers affected by bovine TB.

“It is completely galling for those who have to live with the misery and financial losses caused by bovine TB to see a millionaire rock star dropping in to talk about the proposed cull when he has no idea of the desperate need to control this disease,” said FUW vice president Brian Walters.

 “When was the last time Brian May had to go cap in hand to a landlord or the bank manager to explain that a TB outbreak meant he could not keep up with payments?

“People are having their livelihoods destroyed,” says Mr Walters,who has seen the rural community in which he has lived all his life ravaged by bTB over the past decade,

“The epidemic is ripping families and communities apart, driving people to the very edge and costing the lives of tens of thousands of cattle each year in Wales alone.

“Farmers do not have the luxury of sitting back and collecting recording royalties while pontificating about issues that do not affect them.

“We have seen tens of thousands of cattle taken away due to TB, yet we have not heard a single word from Brian May regarding this slaughter.

“Yet when the Welsh Government proposes a small-scale badger cull in an area where one in seven badgers is infected with the disease, Brian May announces on his website he is ‘losing most of a precious day in the studio’ to travel to Swansea to take part in a cynical publicity stunt.

“It shows a completely subjective approach to animal welfare and smacks of a condescending attitude to Welsh government.

“A vet would not dream of telling him how to play his guitar, so why should he feel he has the right to tell vets how to control a dangerous disease.

“He may be losing a ‘precious’ day in the studio but does he know how many farmers are losing precious days of work to witness their animals being herded into trailers to be taken to slaughterhouses because of TB?

“Nobody agrees to the needless destruction of wildlife but TB is costing the lives of thousands of cattle as well and of badgers already suffering excruciatingly painful deaths due to the disease.”

Readers' comments (24)

  • I don't think Brian May is suggesting that he personally has all the answers. He is simply backing the argument put forward by the Badger Trust. May's wealth has no relevance, this is about animal welfare, something that many people have strong feelings about whatever their financial situation. Brian is using his position (as someone who people listen to) to air his views and speak up for the badgers. I applaud him for that.

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  • What I find of greatest concern about this whole issue is that so many people fail to question the basics of the whole bTB programme. As cattle owners personally affected as a family by bTB policy, I have studied this subject fairly intensively over the last 2 years and read tomes on the subject. There are far more questions than answers (see www.bovinetb.co.uk) - many of these are fundamentals and if they cannot be answered then the existing policy is suspect. There are, of course, sectors that have significant financial interests in seeing the existing regime continue. However, have we now got to the stage where the detrimental affects on both humans and animals as a result of existing policy are far worse than the risk of the disease itself. It has been refreshing to see that scientists are beginning to question the current policy. ‘Public Health and bovine tuberculosis – what’s all the fuss about’ is a recently published report by Dr Paul R Torgerson and Professor David J Torgenson. It is a very well researched and referenced, concluding that bTB control in cattle is irrelevant as a public health policy and there is little evidence either for a positive cost benefit in terms of animal health of bTB control. It suggests that such evidence is required; otherwise there is little justification for the large sums of money spent on bTB control in the UK. We already have reports that conclude culling of badgers is not good value for money and yet no financial analysis of the existing programme has been undertaken - despite the huge costs to the taxpayer. A radical re-think is needed.

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  • There has been a serious level of bTB in the Northern Irish national herd, peaking after FMD in 2002.

    DARD (the NI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) imposed strict movement and testing in 2002 to control this.

    In 2002 there was a bTB herd incidence of 9.95%. By 2007 the herd incidence had fallen to 5.35%. In 2008 and 2009 the rate of herd incidence has flat-lined at about 5.2%. So in NI, bTB has nearly halved – but there has been no badger cull.

    I am of the opinion that the main cause of the spread of bTB in Wales is not cow-to badger-to-cow contact, nor cow-to-cow contact - but the criminal arrogance of the various farming lobbies that have been playing a macho game of "who blinks first". Or "no controls without a cull".

    Recently at the NFU conference in England in Liverpool, some farmers slow hand-clapped Hilary Been. They would have done better to slow clap Peter Kendal.

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  • Actually, I think Mr Cochranes wealth is of relevance and I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Walters. Your opinion about an issue can change markedly when your income, livelihood and quality of life are directly affected by it. I reiterate the point that has been made many times in these discussions that cattle contribute significantly to the GDP of the UK. They are a commodity in a way that the badger will never be. If rats or insects were causing bTB we would not be having this discussion. Has Mr May contacted any of the farming Unions to see the wealth of evidence they have on this issue? I think not. His argument is purely emotional and thus is not objective. Using a celebrity to sway the public is a cheap, unscientific shot which screams of desperation. Give us science badger trust, not a guitarist. Oh - and I have a PhD too - except mine is in disease biology!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous says his [Dr. May] argument is purely emotional and thus is not objective. I disagree, I believe there is scientific basis to his argument. Put simply - what's the point in culling badgers if it's not going to resolve the problem? The emotional aspect is that he (and others) care enough to act. "Using a celebrity to sway the public is a cheap" - why? Are you saying that people like Dr. May (and others like Paul McCartney) who are branded "celebrities" are not entitled to take action against cruelty? Are they to sit quietly in their mansions counting their money? The Badger Trust didn't call on Brian May to speak for them, but presumably welcome his initiative and support. As for my wealth, Mr Anonymous, it's irrelevant (I haven't got any anyway more's the pity) - the relevant issue (on the side of the Badger Trust) is animal welfare.

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  • Dr Brian May is not only a world famous musician but also a much respected scientist.
    He has campaigned for many years on animal welfare issues and always does so having fully researched the subject.
    The facts gained from the previous cull in England showed the wholesale slaughter of badgers did not solve the problem of bovine TB in cattle. To go ahead with this cull would be a disaster for the wildlife and would not stop the spread of this disease.
    I applaud Dr. May for his passionate stance on animal welfare.

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  • I think Dr May has as much right as anyone else to attend the JR. Anyone else who had done the research could have said what he did and yet may not have come under fire like this. True he has an emotional stand, but then he also has done the research to back it up. I respect him for taking the time to lend his voice to this and if it brings more publicity to the cause and brings about common sense, all the better.

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  • here are some narrow views expressed here in relation to Brian that do not take account of his sphere of knowledge. If he's backing a cause, rest assured he will have read up on it. As for the wealth thing, one should guard against an attitude that inverts the situation of days of yore, when only the well-off could vote, by suggesting that the wealthy should now somehow be excluded from expressing an opinion, when in fact, they're paying taxes into the system through the nose, as are the rest of us. Yes, there is a publicity element - Brian is clearly aware that he has a name that he can use to attract interest in something he passionately believes in. There's no cynicism in that. I'm sure he doesn't want to see any person or creature suffer - farmers and cattle included. I'm no scientist but I figure that if it's a question of finding an effective solution, and an inoculation amounts to the same quantity of liquid in a syringe as a death jab, with the same man hours required to administer it, why kill? Especially as culling doesn't appear to have brought about the desired results!

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  • Brian May has as much right to high profile this issue as anyone else and is well researched normally before he makes comment. Mr Walters bleat is simply because he objects to any constructive opposition to the cull. Humane people will find an alternative and intelligent way to solve the problem. I pray that common sense prevails.

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  • Somebody has to do something, and if it takes a rockstar to do it, well so be it. The evidence that says it doesn't help killing the badgers is significant and it is a frustrating situation that when it all comes down to save the badgers from being killed, its all about paragraphs and crime or no crime. Where is our humanity?

    Brian Alston, you say; "Nobody agrees to the needless destruction of wildlife but TB is costing the lives of thousands of cattle as well and of badgers already suffering excruciatingly painful deaths due to the disease."

    First of all, if nobody wants to kill innocent wild animals, then how can they even think of killing a single badger when there is no evidence that it will decrese bTB. I think Mr. May is right about the problems with the farming methods when it comes to animals. Its all about money making and yes we all have to make a living, but I think that if you choose to earn your money via animals you take up a huge responsibility, it is after all living creatures, like humans, and they deserve a decent life. Farming methods today is way out of control. Also the badgers who has the misfortune to be infected with bTB needs help! What whould we do if it was our children!?! Let's help them the same way.

    I think that the VIP´s of the Farming industry should call in the vets and the VIP´s of the animal welfare organisations and together put up a plan for futuring farming methods. Its not working in Wales, in all of Great Britain, in Denmark and so many other places on this planet. The industry has a lot of experience in what not to do, the vets has a subject knowlege and the welfare-people has the moral and the etics expertice. They can ALL make it better.

    Mr. May has a right to speak and to make a stand, also to use his position if he like. He's just using his freedom of speech and his freedom of action. Animals can't do that.

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