Monty Don quits Twitter after badger cull row

Alistair Driver

CELEBRITY gardener and Soil Association president Monty Don has quit Twitter after receiving abusive comments over his stance on the badger cull.

The debate over the badger cull has raged on Twitter for many months with people, as people on both sides of the argument use the social networking site to push their side of the argument.

Monty Don (@TheMontyDon), who has more than 30,000 followers on Twitter, joined the fray recently when he attempted to defend the policy in a series of tweets.

The Soil Association has angered opponents of the cull by taking a neutral stance on the policy and refusing calls to stop certifying products from farms taking part in the badger cull. Recently, this led to Mr Don being targeted by opponents of the cull on Twitter.

Responding to a request to join a march against the cull, Mr Don, who succeeded Jonathan Dimbleby as President of the Soil Association in 2008, tweeted: “Not sure whether the cull is in principle a bad thing. Probably ineffective but not necessarily wrong as a trial.”

Later, as opponents of the policy questioned his comments, he added that the cull was ‘an honest attempt to control TB’. He said: “We cull many animals – don’t know why badgers get special treatment.”

This prompted more criticism, as those opposed to the cull described it as a ‘smokescreen’ and insisted were being killed inhumanely. One tweeted: “That man clearly knows as little about the cull as he does about gardening #idiot”

A few days later, as the debate continued to rage on Twitter, Mr Don tweeted: “A pity that such beautiful & fascinating animals as Badgers evoke such extreme, blinkered views. Does nothing to solve difficult problem.”

Then last Friday, he announced he was leaving the social networking site: “Bye twitter, Thank you to all those who followed with intelligence, charm and friendliness.”

Explaining the organic certification body’s stance on the badger cull earlier this year, Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning said the science surrounding the issue of badger culling is ‘still contested’.

“Farmers licensed by the Soil Association, the experts we work with and our supporters all have different views.

“As far as farmers licensed by the Soil Association are concerned, our standards cover all aspects of production, but not other things that happen on farms such as public access or controlling populations of animals like rats, rabbits, foxes or deer.

“We will not be making changes to our certification standards and decisions on whether to allow badgers to be culled on their land is something individual organic farmers will need to decide.”

Defra has staged regular Q&A session on Twitter to address opponents’ concerns about the policy, while the NFU has also been active on Twitter encouraging supporters to use the hashtag  #tbfree to help explain the justification for the policy. Defra (@DefraGovUK) and the NFU (@NFUtweets) have both established dedicated websites to explain their stance.

But the arguments in favour of the cull are drowned out by the volume of those taking to Twitter opposing it, led by the likes of Care for the Wild’s Dominic Dyer (@domdyer70).

The latter tweeted: “The Don Has Gone ! Monty Don quits twitter after causing huge damage to Soil Association & his TV career over pro badger cull comments”.

Others who responded to Mr Don’s comments have stressed, via Twitter, that their comments were ‘polite’ questions that were ‘neither offensive or abusive’.

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