Autumn is here and so is Britain’s annual badger cull. While cattle and sheep may be Britain’s most common farm animals, badgers have been domesticated in some communities for centuries. Badger milk and cheese have formed the backbone of the economy in such communities, where badger farms have been passed down through countless generations.
“Badger milking is in our blood,” said Ian Gipple of Bofferwick, a village in Wiltshire whose ‘badgerers’ – those who domesticate badgers – have been active since at least the fourteenth century. “It’s more than a job. It’s a way of life. You can’t live side by side with badgers for years and not become a little badgery yourself.”
“Badgering is a British cultural tradition,” said another resident, “Just like how those Romans were raised by a wolf, King Arthur was suckled at the teat of a wild badger.”
Groups such as Got Badger Milk and Salamandastron have held up these communities as examples of how Britain can overcome poor badger-human relationships across the country: domesticate the wild badger populations and turn them into productive members of society rather than the squatting, tuberculoid layabouts they are in the wild.
Domesticating wild badgers can be difficult. “Badgers are all about clan mentality. So to tame badgers you have to find the alpha in the clan and take them down in a no-holds-barred cave match. Once you assert your dominance over the badger chief, you can go about truly taming the entire clan,” said Gipple.
Many farmers in Britain are hesitant to commit to such an arduous process to tame badgers that they might otherwise simply kill. “I can’t think of anything that could possibly make me want to tame and milk wild badgers. Literally nothing could be worth it,” Harry Walthome, a British dairy farmer told WWN.
After a badger has been domesticated, milking it is no walk in the park. As a badgerer, you have to fight tooth and nail from dawn till dusk to make some of the most ill-tempered animals on the planet give up their precious milk. Naturally, badger milking is not without risk. Badgerers almost never make it to old age without a significant injury from badgering. Many badgerers are missing fingers, toes, or eyes, and some have even paid the ultimate price.
“I lost my wife to the badgers we tend,” said Rupert Wallis. “You can’t show fear to a clan of badgers – they’re like wolves, ready to strike at the first sign of weakness even after you assert your dominance. My wife took a legger while she was on a solo milk run and went down right in the middle of the clan. They stripped her flesh down to the bone in the minute it took me to fight my way toward her. She got too cocky, and lost her life because of it.”
Badgering may be difficult, dangerous, and downright disgusting, but it’s also exceptionally profitable. Today, badger products sell at a premium, as the rich caloric and nutritional properties of a badger’s milk coupled with its rarity serve to make it a favorite among the British elite. Badger milk has even earned the nickname “liquid gold” among those who seek it out – and not just because of its off-white color. There are many connoisseurs who are willing to go to great lengths for a mere cup of the stuff.
“Once you’ve tasted the nectar of the badger, every other dairy product pales in comparison,” said Gracie-Leigh Glenn, prominent online dairy enthusiast, “The thick, loamy texture is the foundation for the sublime nutty earthiness that characterizes every taste of badger milk. To the discerning palate, badger milk is the gold standard.”