After 5 years spent fighting the ever expanding badger cull here in the UK I have now moved on to Art as Activism with the casting in foundry bronze of the first of my limited edition small Badger sculptures. These badgers are hand sized and are the small scale models (maquettes) of the much larger life sized badger, now three quarters completed at my studio near Totnes.
The pose I have chosen was from a back view photograph of a badger on a postcard taken by wildlife photographer Richard Costins. Given this was a back view I worked on a small scale maquette to experiment with what position the legs might be in on the ‘blind side’, and what they might be doing.
Exploring this in 3D in a reduced size made resolving these brain teasers possible. Good images to work from are hard to find, badgers being nocturnal and wary, most images are in semi gloom and usually show the badger snout first, so this pose was a rarity.
When this sculpture was near to finished Richard kindly sent me a larger image to work from, and close inspection with a magnifying glass revealed what I had suspected; this badger had been having a good scratch just before the shutter closed, and was peering over its shoulder to see if the flea had finally gone!
This pensive look, (something badgers excel at), over its shoulder gives a look of pathos that is hard to resist. Whether it is fleas or man, badger lives are hard, peppered with minor or major persecutions.
It’s this tough life which makes badgers tough as a species, and makes them appealing to me. Badgers can look after themselves, or at least they could until 2013 when the Government sanctioned badger culls started, and so this little badger is titled ‘Persecuted’, for obvious reasons.
The larger badger once finished will in turn become the base for a much more complicated sculpture of a ‘Badger Trophic Cascade’.
Removing large numbers of badgers, particularly in coastal areas such as the West Country will result in an increase in fox numbers and an increase in the foraging range of hedgehogs, both of whom will eat more ground nesting song birds and waders than badgers ever will.
An increase in the fox population will also see a fall in the rabbit and hare populations with knock on effects to birds of prey such as buzzards and other small carnivores such as stoats and weasels who rely on a healthy rabbit population.
This negative trophic cascade will tumble all the way down to rare flowering plants which cannot compete against taller grasses when there are no rabbits to crop them close, and the even rarer invertebrates such as the Marsh Fritillary who rely on them.
The FERA Ecological Impact Survey of January 2011 lists no less than 35 species negatively affected by badger culling, with a further 27 species affected by method of removal. SSSIs and Nature Reserves who took part in the Randomised Badger Cull Trials of the 1990’s lost the very species they had been set up to protect.
This is why the current roll out of yet more badger culling across the West Country is an ecological disaster, and as the affects were known by government, they amount to wilful Ecocide.
The full sized badger should be finished before the end of 2017 and I should be able to start on the Trophic Cascade in early 2018.
If you are interested in the life sized version, or in the Trophic Cascade sculpture, or know a wildlife rescue centre or other institution who might be, please do get in touch! I’d love to chat with you about them.
In the meantime, do go and see the little version of ‘Persecuted’ at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, or at my studio Unit 7 Coombe Park Craft Studios, Ashprington, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 7DY, or via my website www.amamenec-sculpture.co.uk
This article was specially written for Focusing on Wildlife by Ama Menec.