29 May 2013

Cold culling: will protesters stop the badger cull?

Just days before a controversial cull of badgers can begin, opponents claim government agencies are still trying to recruit workers for the scheme.

Badger (getty)

The advert, on the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs website, says it is looking for field workers to work on “humane, evidence driven solutions to human-wildlife conflicts”. It adds that candidates must be immunised against tuberculosis. The closing date is 6 June – five days after the cull can commence.

A cull of as many as 5,000 badgers is set to begin this Saturday in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Supporters argue that it will drastically reduce the incidents of tuberculosis amongst cattle – which can be caught from badgers. But opponents say it is impossible to accurately monitor the badger population and that killing some could actually prompt the animals to roam further, thus exacerbating the spread of TB.

Anti-cull activists believe the government is trying to increase its manpower because of fears that protests could put the cull in jeopardy. They say the presence of large numbers of demonstrators could prompt police to ban the shooting of badgers on safety grounds. Workers will then be forced to rely on much more labour-intensive cage-trapping.

‘Hundreds of people’

Jay Tiernan from Stop the Cull told Channel 4 News: “We expect to have hundreds of people out in the countryside as soon we find out that culling has begun. The licence clearly states police can stop the free shooting if there are public order concerns.

“It’s our understanding this recruitment across the south west of England is being done because they need a large number of people to cage trap – it’s a massive logistical operation.

“But cage trapping is far easier for us to identify and neutralise than marksmen. We’re confident that should the cull start we can stop it within two or three weeks at the most.”

Cage trapping ‘speculation’

A spokesperson for Defra’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency told Channel 4 News –

“AHVLA routinely advertises for short-term appointments relating to (the) project. No temporary staff recruited through the recent advert for ‘field workers’ will work on the forthcoming badger cull pilots.

“We are not ‘looking to recruit workers for the scheme’. Nor are we recruiting ‘across the south west of England’.

“Additionally, Jay Tiernan’s reference to cage trapping is both complete speculation and totally wrong. The posts advertised had absolutely nothing to do with cage trapping and would not be involved in cull activity.”