Vermin, Victims and Disease: UK Framings of Badgers In and Beyond the Bovine TB Controversy



The question of whether to cull wild badgers in order to control the spread of bovine TB (bTB) in UK cattle herds has been deeply contentious for nearly 40 years, and still shows no sign of resolution. This paper will examine the strategic framing of badgers in recent debates over bTB in the UK media, which take two opposing forms: the ‘good badger’ as epitomised in Kenneth Grahame's children's novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’; and the less familiar ‘bad badger’: carnivore, digger, and carrier of disease. It will then uncover the deeper historical and cultural roots of these representations, to argue that underlying the contemporary ‘badger/bTB’ controversy is an older ‘badger debate’ about the proper relationship between these wild animals and humans. Finally, the implications of this finding for current debates over bTB policy will be explored.