Rock star Brian May has been criticised after using the closing ceremony at the London Olympics to highlight opposition to a badger cull to tackle TB in cattle ruining West Country farming.
Performing before a worldwide audience of millions, the Queen guitarist wore a coat featuring a badger emblem surrounded by a “Q” on his left arm. A similar emblem, featuring a fox head, was on his right arm.
Both motifs were visible during a rendition of the Queen hit We Will Rock You, as Mr May played alongside British pop star Jessie J on vocals.
An animal welfare campaigner, Mr May is a high-profile opponent of the Government’s badger cull. Pilot schemes are expected to begin in the South West this year.
Jill Grieve, head of communications of Countryside Alliance, said: “Brian May’s attempt to turn his performance at the Olympic closing ceremony into a political statement was inappropriate for various reasons.
“Whatever the rules on political campaigning at the Olympics, Mr May was in poor taste, trying to turn a celebration of our nation’s greatest athletes into a sideshow for his own extreme views. Many around the world would surely have missed the point he was trying to make, but to the farmers struggling against bovine TB and fox predation, a millionaire rock star using a global sporting celebration to undermine their way of life really stuck in the craw.”
If pilots in West Somerset and Gloucestershire are successful the cull will be rolled out in other hotspots. Bovine tuberculosis, which is said to be spread by badgers, has led to nearly 25,000 cattle being slaughtered in England a year, causing years of misery for farmers in the West Country.
The Government says the disease will cost the taxpayer £1 billion, chiefly in compensation to farmers whose sick cattle has been slaughtered.
Last week, the Badger Trust was granted the right to appeal against a High Court ruling in July that the Government’s planned badger cull is lawful.
Earlier this year, the musician wrote the foreword to a think tank report calling on the Government to abandon plans for the pilot badger culls in the South West, where the disease is rife.
Critics blame farmers for poor husbandry for the disease’s spread, and claim cattle and badger vaccinations are the best solution, despite counter-claims they are unreliable.
At a public meeting in Taunton last month, Mr May, who runs his own animal rights campaign called Save Me, said it was hard to understand why the Government was so keen on going ahead with the culls.
“You could argue a case economically – but that’s not an argument either because this cull could make things worse,” he said.
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