Queen guitarist in badger row

By Anna Sheinman, September 12, 2013
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Brian May, with a ‘badger’. His remarks have upset Jews in Gloucestershire. (Photo: PA)

Brian May, with a ‘badger’. His remarks have upset Jews in Gloucestershire. (Photo: PA)

Former Queen guitarist Brian May has been criticised for describing the government’s culling of badgers as “genocide”.

Mr May made the comment during a visit to Gloucestershire, where 5,000 badgers are being killed in order to halt the spread of tuberculosis in cows. He called the cull “genocide in the countryside”.

It provoked an angry reaction from the local Jewish community. Jenny Silverstone, chairwoman of Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation, said: “Perhaps it was deliberate to shock, and it was shocking.

“I can quite see how some people would be very upset. He is entitled to express his thoughts but it was a misuse of the word.”

The term genocide, often applied the Holocaust, refers to the mass killing of human beings.

Ms Silverstone said she remained a “huge fan” of Queen, but said the guitarist’s choice of words was “inappropriate”.

Another member of the synagogue, Miriam Webster, said: “Obviously it’s ignorant — genocide is for people. This is killing. It’s quite the wrong word and it’s offensive and others I have spoken to have said the same. Perhaps next time he’ll think.”

Hundreds of people have been protesting against the Gloucestershire cull, calling it cruel, unnecessary and even counter-productive, claiming the cull could spread TB by causing badgers to flee to other areas.

Mr May, a high-profile animal-rights campaigner, said: “Once the country sees what is going on with the brutality and the senselessness of this government policy, I don’t believe that Britain will stand for it.”

Last updated: 12:17pm, September 13 2013