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Badger and the censor THERE are times, readers, when

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THERE are times, readers, when Badger despairs at humankind’s ability to be cruel to each other. There are times when, with a badgerly shrug, he simply wishes he could walk away and find somewhere cool and dimly lit to lie down with an un-improving volume of light verse. Readers will know that Badger has detected a certain sourness and cynicism in public discourse over recent years. As you will also know by now, readers, Badger is bang onside with sourness and cynicism, if it has a point: but what we are now experiencing is the nihilism of halfwitty and half-witted remarks, such as “Don’t vote, it only encourages them.”

A sentiment often advanced by those who do not vote and then complain at a result they forfeited all right to complain about. Consumerism has fractured society into chunks, some of which overlap and some of which stand in glorious isolation. In a world more interconnected than ever before, there seems to be more genuine loneliness – or, perhaps, wilful isolation of the self – than at any time Badger can remember.

As we have become increasingly identifiable by third parties through our actions and our responses to stimuli (for example, shopper loyalty cards; banking information; online gaming; online advertising) and accordingly placed into groups for targeted marketing, so the glue that holds us together as families and communities has weakened. Badger sees the way people, write and behave on social media and some of the vile and offensive things that appear on it. And Badger wonders whether the term “society” has somehow passed its sell by date.

The expression of extremes seems to have become the norm, particularly from the wilder shores of the fascist right. Those who express those racist, repugnant and intolerant views claim protection derived from a freedom of speech they want to deny others. That they are able to express their views at arms’ length or from the safety of a keyboard before a glowing monitor, seems to suggest that some line has been crossed.

As we look at online avatars and profiles, we become less human, less humane and more inclined to casual cruelties. The problematic result of all of this can be summarized as follows: social networks are addicting and provide the illusion of real relationship. Over time, we begin to falsely equate genuine, humanto- human relationship with the shallow connection and gratification offered by social networks.

We increasingly define ourselves in terms of our digital presence and feel the need to “share” constantly to feel heard and less alone. It is that need to be heard which causes people to ‘shout’ online. Scarcely a report of a court story can appear online without someone, usually someone with only a nodding acquaintance with spelling and grammar, hopping out from under their bridge to offer an opinion.

Over Christmas, Badger was looking at some exchanges on The Herald’s own Facebook feed. There was a report of a case. The report set out the charges the accused faced, the course of the trial, the guilty verdict and the sentence passed by the Court. Judging from the reactions, you would have thought that newspapers and their web feeds should only carry news that relates news that trolls find agreeable – for example “Billy Goats Gruff Eaten” or “Judge praises axe murderer for being nice to his mum”. It was “wrong” what was written. The story was not “true”. It was all “unfair”. It was “sad” to send the guilty to prison. Gloves off: what was written was objectively right.

There was no lie. The facts spoke for themselves. It was not unfair. The accused had their chance to defend their actions. They could not do so. The word “guilty” means guilt was established according to the law and beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not the law as trolls wish it, but the law as it is. Badger was horrified by one person, who from the content of his remarks was lucky not to be lifted by the rozzers himself. Badger pondered before deciding that a line had been crossed. He deleted comments that were argumentative, intimidatory, and hectoring in tone.

Enough was enough: freedom of speech does not include the right to bully others by being a keyboard warrior. If the person whose long and aggressive rants was to be believed, people who had committed a crime had gone unpunished. The fact he was prepared to stand idly by and do nothing about that state of affairs, speaks volumes for the very special trollish logic he applied to his statements. Badger censored a debate. Now, readers Badger is in favour of open, friendly, non-judgemental and balanced argument.

At the same time, he knows he is personally seldom all four of the foregoing at one time – and occasionally their diametric opposite in each and every respect – but Badger makes a genuine effort to approach those terms both singly and collectively. Badger was reluctant to reach for the metaphorical blue pencil, but for better or ill he did. Make no mistake, the remarks Badger deleted were not the ‘casual cruelties’ he referred to earlier. These were not spiteful, petty remarks of the type made by insecure juveniles.

The remarks he censored were appalling, crass and menacing. In the great scheme of things, however, they were far less offensive than some of the toxic rants Badger has seen peddled as fact by bigots online; but they were far over the bounds of what a reasonable person would tolerate. They were certainly beyond what an occasionally unreasonable Badger could tolerate. What makes humans human is their interactions with each other. Every human is different and each of us has rights and obligations that come from being part of the whole. Badger wouldn’t have it any other way. Our society is more important than “comments”, “likes” and “shares” on social media. Badger fears, however, that which connects us in so many ways, makes inhumanity to others far easier than it was previously.

letter to badger

‘Humane and committed’ -do you know best this time?

DEAR BADGER, Since you started to climb out of your badger sett each week and write articles for the Pembrokeshire Herald you appeared to want to help local humans, but last week you seemed to have lost concern for yourself and your wildlife friends.

In your last article you stated that Simon Hart, MP is “humane and committed”. Simon Hart before he became our MP was the Master of the South Pembrokeshire Hunt, Director of the Campaign for Hunting and Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance which was and still is deeply “committed” to the return of hunting with dogs. So surely, Mr Badger, you have to ask the question “what is he committed to and is it humane?”.

Simon Hart MP has strongly supported the campaign to repeal the Hunting Act 2004. The Act not only made it illegal to hunt wildlife with dogs for sport, but also made it illegal for hunts to block your sett entrances whilst hunting. So that law, besides protecting you, protected young badger cubs when they were born underground. Furthermore, Mr Badger, Simon Hart MP was against vaccinating your relatives in Wales, instead of culling, so you don’t catch Bovine TB from cattle.

Culling badgers is a disaster when carried out in England and was said to be “ inefficient and inhumane” after the badgers were shot and took a considerable time to die. Surely Mr Badger you must reassess your opinion of what being “humane ” means, or one day in the future, you may be culled or get blocked in your badger sett and unable to get out, so that will be the end of your excellent articles.

Michael Sharratt

Cwm Coile

Whitland

Carmarthenshire

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Business

First drive-thru Starbucks in Pembrokeshire approved

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PEMBROKESHIRE is to get its first drive-thru Starbucks coffee shop after a scheme was backed by county planners today, May 21.

An application – expected to create 20 jobs – by Magic Bean Company Ltd to site an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station and drive through Starbucks coffee shop on land adjoining Days Garage, Fishguard Road, Haverfordwest, was recommended for conditional approval when it came before the May meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee.

A report for planners said: “There are two principal elements to the proposed development. The provision of an EV charging station with eight charging points and a drive through coffee shop, which will provide 20 full time jobs.

“A further 13 parking spaces are provided to serve the development, including two spaces for people with disabilities. The coffee shop will be situated at the western end of the site opposite the proposed EV charging station, which is centrally located within the site. “

It added: “The coffee shop building will be single storey with a ‘tower’ feature in the west elevation where the customer collection point will be located beneath a timber finished pergola.”

The report said the proposal represented a more effective use of the application site than its current car parking use.

10 representations from members of the public raised concerns about the proposal, issues including: no need for additional coffee shops locally, adverse impact on existing small local coffee shops and that the planning authority should not be supporting “multinational businesses,” and littering and highway issues.

While Starbucks was not mentioned in the planning documents, Magic Bean Company Ltd, on its website, says: “Established in 2014, The Magic Bean Company opened our first store and became the first licensee to open a Starbucks Drive Thru.

“Since then, we have gone on to become Starbuck’s only national growth partner covering England and Wales, developing our green electric vehicle Starbucks platform.”

Speaking at the May 21 meeting, Magic Bean Company Ltd agent Matthew Gray said the drive-thru coffee shop would be a Starbucks, adding: “The application is driven by the requirement for Days to diversify, following a slowing of vehicle sales across the UK.”

He added: “It’s pretty well reported that car sales are slow in the UK in the past few years, this is an opportunity to boost the viability of their [Days’] own operation.”

He said the eight EV charging units would be provided by Ionity, one of Europe’s largest charging providers, with a need for more such facilities in west Wales.

After Cllr Alistair Cameron raised concerns from members of the public about potential littering, Mr Gray said Starbucks had a standard approach to litter management, with staff maintaining the area, and coffee outlets having a lower level of litter than some other drive-thrus.

Concerns were raised by Councillor John Cole on highways grounds, fearing the combination of the drive-thru and a nearby school, along with the nearby annual County Show, could create “havoc” with parents stopping off for a coffee.

Following an approval call by Cllr Brian Hall, members unanimously backed the application.

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News

Lifeboat crew rescues stranded yacht following gearbox and engine failure

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THE ANGLE RNLI lifeboat crew sprang into action after two yachts were stranded due to gearbox and engine issues.

At 6:47 am on Monday, May 13, the crew responded to a Pan-Pan call – a distress signal indicating a serious issue that is not immediately life-threatening – from a yacht experiencing gearbox failure just north of Thorn Island.

Concerns arose that the disabled yacht might drift into the shipping channel, prompting the swift launch of Angle’s lifeboat. Upon arrival, the crew conversed with the yacht’s skipper and subsequently towed the vessel to safety. The yacht was secured at Milford Marina, and the lifeboat was back at the station and ready for further service by 9:00 am.

A day earlier, on Sunday, the lifeboat crew received a call from the coastguard regarding a yacht with engine failure south of Skokholm Island. The lifeboat was promptly launched and reached the scene within approximately 20 minutes.

After assessing the situation, it was determined that the best course of action was to tow the 12-metre yacht back to Milford Marina. Once the yacht was safely docked, the lifeboat crew returned to base, preparing the vessel for future missions by 11:00 am.

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Crime

Suspended sentence for Llandeilo man who neglected five horses and foxhound

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A WEST WALES man has been handed a suspended sentence after he was found to have neglected five horses and a foxhound.

Gregory Edward Baker, 43, of Rhydcymerau, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court for a two-day trial on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 April, and faced five offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

They were that he caused unnecessary suffering to five equines by failing to adequately investigate or address the causes of their poor or underweight bodily conditions along with skin diseases namely rain scald, mud fever and lice infestation, and also did not meet their needs.

He also caused further unnecessary suffering to one of these equines – a chestnut mare – relating to her lameness of her left foreleg and unnecessary suffering to a foxhound by failing to provide prompt or effective professional veterinary care and attention for his paraphimosis (unretracted penis) with associated ulceration and fracture.

Following a two-day trial Baker was found guilty for all offences and on Thursday 16 May he was sentenced to 20 weeks imprisonment which has been suspended for 24 months. 

This included a 20 week sentence for the first offence, 20 weeks for the second offence, 12 weeks for the third offence, eight weeks for the fourth offence and 12 weeks for the fifth offence – which will all run concurrently. 

He was also ordered to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work in the next 12 months. One of the horses – which had been placed in another person’s care – was also transferred to the care of the RSPCA. 

In a witness statement, provided to the court, RSPCA Inspector Neill Manley said he attended the location with RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer (ARO) Rohan Barker on 19 April 2023.

As permission was not granted by the owner to access the land, police were called along with a vet. Inspector Manley and ARO Barker inspected a large number of horses and dogs at the location with serious concern raised for five horses and one foxhound. 

Firstly they saw the chestnut mare who was in the top field and was lame on the front leg.

He said she was “in very poor body condition with her ribs, spine and hip bones prominent and her coat covered in mud and patchy in places” which  looked like rain scald.

In the lower field which was steeply sloping there was a grey/cream colt with a dark mane and tail and was in “very poor body condition with a muddy and unkempt winter coat”. 

He said: “Even through the winter coat you could see her ribs, spine and hip bones protruding. The field was overgrown in patches with bramble and in one bramble patch was  the decomposing carcass of a horse.”

Another horse – a grey gelding with a rug on was also “in very poor body condition with its rib hip and spine bones clearly visible”.

Whilst another horse, a grey/palomino yearling colt, was found to be in very poor body condition and a black Shetland pony mare was found to be in very poor body condition.

Inspector Manley said the pony “was quite weak and unsteady on its feet” and when they along with the vet caught her the pony collapsed and needed help to get back on her feet.

At the dog kennels there were a number of female hounds – and advice was given to the owner about one of them who was lame on her front leg to get the dog checked by a vet.

A male hound was found with a prolapsed penis. Inspector Manley said: “He was a white entire male in reasonable body condition, but had what appeared to me to be a prolapsed penis that looked infected and misshapen.”

In a witness statement – provided to the court – by the vet who examined the foxhound, they said that there were two ulcers on the penis and the “smell of the area was of rotting flesh”. Suggested options were partial penile amputation and castrate, urethrostomy or for the dog to be put to sleep. The vet added the owner “elected for the dog to be put to sleep”.

Two of the horses were transferred to a family member but sadly one of these – the chestnut mare who was found to be severely lame – was put to sleep on advice from an independent vet on welfare grounds to prevent further suffering.

In a witness statement – provided to the court – by the vet who examined and monitored the horses they said the mare had a “discharging abscess on her left fore”, she had a body score of two out of five, rain scald and lice and was heavy in foal. Treatment was given but sadly she lost her foal and failed to improve.

The vet added: “I radiographed her left fore food and sadly but unsurprisingly found a sequestrum (infected fragment of bone) and osteomyelitis (bone infection). Enthanasia was recommend on humane grounds as there was a hopeless prognosis of successful treatment.”

The other three horses – who were placed in the care of the RSPCA – were taken to a boarding establishment.

The vet added: “All three ponies had put on a considerable amount of weight in just under a month – this was only attributable to the provision of appropriate nutrition.”

Inspector Manley also issued the owner an improvement notice advising him of the improvements that needed to be made. In mitigation the court heard that there has been no criticism since with any of the animals in his care and a disqualification order was not imposed.

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