Graham Fletcher: ‘messengers of doom might cease’ *H&H Plus*


  • Graham Fletcher ponders worst case scenarios and a badger problem

    MOST people in equestrianism have been to hospital at some point and witnessed the caring professionalism of NHS staff. And never have they been appreciated more than during the Covid outbreak.

    However, I believe that an opportunity was sorely missed when the nation applauded them on consecutive Thursdays last year. Imagine if a phone app had been available so that everyone could give from 50p to £5 to the staff of their local hospitals. It would have raised multi-millions.

    If you think I’ve missed the point and am being unduly mercenary, consider this…

    When restaurants are fully opened and you’ve enjoyed a good meal with your friends, at the end of the evening you invite your waitress over. You tell her you don’t believe in tipping, but to show your appreciation you’re all going to stand up and applaud.

    Her reaction will remind you that while it’s always nice to be thanked, it doesn’t pay the mortgage.


    ONE saying that’s really got to me during this pandemic is when Boris or his advisors declare that “we must look at the worst possible scenario.”

    Maybe it’s because during a lifetime in horses, whether I’m training, competing or selling, it’s a thought that’s never crossed my mind.

    Hopefully, with the success of the vaccine and the young remaining largely unscathed, such messengers of doom might cease and we can open the curtains and see a ray of sunshine.


    I’VE always enjoyed David Attenborough’s programmes. Beautifully shot and narrated, they tell the story of nature in its truest form; the hunter and the hunted.

    The pure majesty or aggression shown is never over-sentimentalised. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of how many urbanites see animals in the British countryside.

    There are few more adorable sights than fox cubs at play. And the fox itself is now regarded as more of a cuddly dog than the vicious killer it is. As anyone who has chickens or is lambing can testify, when the fox comes calling it doesn’t just kill for food, but leaves a trail of devastation.

    Another common distortion is blaming farmers’ use of pesticides for the dwindling number of songbirds in our gardens. Surely it’s no coincidence that since sparrow hawks, buzzards and alike have been protected, there have never been so many.

    As magnificent as these birds of prey look in flight, anybody who’s seen one swoop down, and heard the intense trill of a blackbird as it’s picked up, cannot possibly think that farming is the only culprit – as Chris Packham, the naturalist, seems to think.

    The likes of Chris and Carrie Symonds continue to campaign against badger culling, supporting the removal of the provision of licensed culling of badgers for the purpose of preventing the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

    I have to admit I’m not a fan of badgers. When I bred horses at my farm in Yorkshire, they made their home in the loamy soil in my fields. Badger setts can appear overnight.

    So, when I’d see a bunch of yearlings and two-year-olds galloping towards me – hoping they didn’t get caught up in the massive holes – I didn’t call the badgers the nicest of names.

    I’ve never met a cattle farmer who doesn’t believe badgers are responsible for bTB. But because of modern opinion, I expect Chris Packham and his cronies will win the day… Which brings me to a true story.

    In 1967, the eighth Earl of Arran sponsored two parliamentary bills. The first, which decriminalised homosexuality, was passed. The second, to outlaw the hunting of badgers, was defeated.

    When asked why the second bill failed, Arran – who was known as Boofy – is reported to have remarked: “There are not many badgers in the House of Lords.”

    This exclusive column is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (8 April, 2021)

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