27 Aug 2013

Badger cull begins in the west country, amid protests

The National Farmers’ Union confirms that a badger cull is underway in two pilot areas in the west country, but campaigners turn out to protest against what they call an “inhumane” measure.

The first pilot badger control operations have begun in two sites in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset.

In a letter to its members, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall said the cull was “an important step not just for cattle farmers but for the whole farming industry”.

He wrote: “We cannot go on culling tens of thousands of cattle every year because of TB while knowing the disease exists in wildlife uncontrolled.

“It is why the NFU will be working with the pilot companies to ensure the successful delivery of these pilot culls over the coming weeks.”

Around 5,000 badgers are expected to be culled in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset over the next six weeks, in an attempt to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB).

But there is widespread opposition to the cull, which protesters have called an “inhumane” measure, and campaigners turned out in large numbers on Monday night at the two pilot sites to protest.

Activists protest

Somerset Badger Patrol held a vigil event in Minehead against the cull. A statement on its Facebook page after the event said: “Over 200 people tonight at the procession, thank you all so much for coming… We fight on, knowing that we are right helps.”

Another group, Stop The Cull, said on its Facebook page that more than 500 people turned out to protest at both sites last night.

An anti-cull activist was yesterday arrested at a site belonging to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The man, named in reports as Jay Tiernan, who runs the Stop The Cull campaign, was chased on foot by police and arrested after climbing over a barbed wire fence into Aston Down in Stroud. He was arrested by Gloucestershire police on suspicion of aggravated trespass at the site.

On Thursday a high court judge made an order to stop farmers involved in badger culls being harassed and abused.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said it was necessary to use “every tool in the box” to tackle the spread of bovine TB.

“Bovine TB is an infectious disease that is spreading across the country and devastating our cattle and dairy industries,” he said.

“We know that, despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won’t get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle. That’s the clear lesson from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the USA.”