Gauging the opinion of the public on the badger cull

I'm not surprised that my recent blog post about the badger cull aroused a bit of a Twitter kerfuffle.

The gist of it was that I predicted the cull was likely to be judged a success by the powers that be and rolled out to other parts of the UK.

What really annoyed people is my assertion that a cull rollout will be pretty much ignored by the Great British Public, because of a "lack of public outrage or even interest" in the cull itself.

"Rubbish" say those who oppose the cull, pointing to this government e-petition which has gathered more than 300,000 signatures.

Facebook pages

It is the biggest response to an e-petition since they started, just ahead of "Convicted London rioters should loose all benefits" in second place.

To sign the e-petition you need to put in a name, email address and a physical address. But beyond confirming a working email address it's not clear what checks the government does on signatories.

It may well be possible for one person to submit several different email addresses to "sign" the petition.

Of course it may be all 300,000 signatures are genuine. But contrast that huge number with the number of people "liking" the various badger groups on Facebook.

On Facebook you have to use your real identity of course and here the level of support for those opposing the cull falls far short of 300,000.

Instead the Badger Army Facebook page has around 27,000 "likes" out of the 24 million people in the UK who use Facebook every day.

Slightly more people have liked a Facebook page calling for Idris Elba to be the next James Bond.

On the ground

Away from all this online protest what about on the ground? Can we gauge the level of support from protests in the real world?

There was an anti-cull march recently in Manchester, but it was part of a much bigger protest outside the Conservative Party Conference so it's hard to see how many attended just to protest against the cull.

Calls to boycott Glastonbury after Michael Eavis came out in favour of the cull had no impact on the music festival. Consumers remain unaware which supermarkets refuse to sell milk from cull zone farms.

Even my original blog post barely cracked the top ten most read posts on my bit of the BBC website. A blog post looking at the redevelopment of King's Cross in London was six times more popular.

None of this means that direct action on the ground isn't being very effective. Indeed I noted in my original post it may well be causing real problems for the cull.

But I still stand by the prediction the government will declare the cull a "technical success" and roll them out across England.

And I still stand by the assertion that for the general population this will remain a non-issue.