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on 4 November 2013
It took me quite a while to read Patrick Barkham's book Badgerlands not because it is a bad book but the chapters on the cruelty, persecution and culling inflicted on badgers was upsetting and just made me put it down and try again in a few days. There are uplifting chapters on the descriptions of people being badger watchers and feeders. I am also glad that Mr. Barkham has at last been able to engage with badgers and his descriptions are also uplifting.
One professional reviewer describes Barkham's last chapter as superb. I agree. I was wondering if I was really going to get anything from the book because as an ecologist I was hopefully waiting for a positive dénouement. There it was in the final chapter. In 2006 when we then lived in Somerset we wrote to the National Farmers Union about the poor standards of animal husbandry that we were witnessing in Somerset. The response from the Director of Communications was that the standard of animal husbandry was an area of concern. He also said the NFU "did not normally give advice on husbandry to its members as traditionally that have been the province of Defra." He continues "However, we are actively considering the possibility of introducing a professional qualification for people who describe themselves as "farmers" with the object of raising standards and sorting out the bad apples".
Well seven years later there still seems to be a lot of "bad apples" out there and Barkham quotes six professional vets who insist that intensive dairy-farming has produced "mutant cows" unable to resist TB because of the appalling conditions and breeding they are subjected to. So we have made the badger the scapegoat for a deplorable situation. I have as much sympathy for farm animals as badgers and I don't wish to see any animal destroyed needlessly but the solution is not the random culling of a wild animal. Surely time for supermarkets to cough up some of their profits and pay farmers to ensure the welfare of their cows and raise standards and sort out the "bad apples". Politicians also need to understand this.
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on 16 March 2014
I had heard lot about this book, having followed the recent tragedy in our countryside where so many badgers have been needlessly killed, and I was not disappointed. It is absolutely beautifully written, weaving the reader into the spell of the countryside and night time vigils so you could almost feel you were there, but as other reviewers have said, it is done in an incredibly balanced way so that the reader can see the picture from all sides, to understand the perspective of both badger lovers and haters. Again like others, a couple of chapters I found very hard and upsetting to read regarding torture and persecution these wonderful animals have had to experience from humans for hundreds of years, but Patrick has done an excellent job at trying to keep any of his own sentimentality out, whilst still expressing the deep passion of 'badger feeders', and the conviction of the scientists and vets as to the real causes behind the cruelty inflicted and the issues of bTB. Even if you are someone who has had little interest in badgers I don't believe you could fail to learn and enjoy this book and realise the importance of these enigmatic creatures. The bTB issue is even more poignant now, as unbeknown at the time the book was written, the statistics on levels of disease have now been proven to have dropped far more than ascertained at the start of the badger cull, due to errors in the Defra computer system.

Any lover of wildlife and/or our countryside will find this a wonderful read, and those that aren't - well may just change their minds.
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on 27 January 2014
There are very few creatures that capture the mystery of the British countryside better than the badger – red squirrels and otters being the only other contenders.

So, a book about the place on Earth that has more badgers per square foot than anywhere else is almost certainly going to be a winner. The only thing that could hold back a book like this would be poor writing and dull characters.

This book has neither.

Starting with a consideration of why badgers hold such a special places in the imagination, then moving to their biology, with an entertaining section on those badger lovers who have often literally taken them into their homes. Finally (and probably) most importantly to the bovine TB issue, this book looks at many aspects of Badgerland.

Mr. Badger from Wind In the Willows is a main player in the first part, biological scientists in the second and mildly (OK, deeply) eccentric badger feeders also play their part.

We often meet the scientists again in the consideration of Bovine TB and badgers. It must be almost impossible to write a balanced account of this issue – but Barkham comes very, very near.

If the earlier sections on badger baiting do not make your blood boil, then the apparent way in which science (and its scientist) are being misused to bolster some form of political campaign probably will.

An excellent, sometimes saddening, occasionally amusing book.

Highly recommended.
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on 7 January 2014
If you havent read Barkham's previous work "The Butterfly Isles" then you might not be expecting this book to be quite this great. Barkham writes in a magically enthusiastic way about the British countryside, without becoming sentimental, and it is this that allows him to investigate our relationship with the badger in such a readable way. He succeeds in making this account just as personal as the Butterfly Isles. One can only hope that he continues to find topics which inspire him to write more. If you read this you ll find yourself emploring other people to do the same. It's the type of book which you want other people to have read too.
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on 21 January 2015
I really enjoyed this book it covers the history, background, culls and TB of the badger. Also you meet some of the people in the UK who love badgers and have helped them in their woodlands and back gardens. If you like badgers you will like this book, the author goes in search of badgers to see in the wild and takes you on his journey.
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on 13 August 2014
A timely publication which reviews the quintessential icon of the British countryside, loved and hated in equal measure? Barkham analyses the evident and attempts to understand the rationale of the non-scientific badger cull with no aftermath monitoring authorised by Owen Paterson, recently departed Minister for (or against) the Environment. His very readable style has a way of transporting the reader out there into the twilight which is this enigmatic creatures world.
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on 11 October 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so different from the normal stuffy natural history books, it was a breath of fresh air but still very educational. It's written in a way which people outside "the badger world" may really enjoy too.
I would have gave it 5 stars but the 4th chapter Mr.Badger seemed so pretentious and out of place. As someone who used to go badger watching and checking setts for many years I give it a thumbs up.
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on 14 April 2017
A good book with a lot of information. I am more wise to the badgers plight and the badgers future.
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on 9 February 2015
This is an amazing book describing one mans journey to understand badgers and their place in our countryside both past and present. Are they friend or foe, demon or demonised? It tackles the ongoing bovine TB issue fairly, allowing all sides of the debate to be heard. It is hard to read in bits and joyous in others thus reflecting the complexity of the British relationship with badgers
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on 13 July 2015
At times the book was slow, but the topic of badgers was well researched and documented. Both sides presented impartially. I now know more than I ever dreamed I needed to, about badgers.... Animal lovers will appreciate this book, animal activists and environmentalists too.... English politics...
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