CAMPAIGNERS against badger culls in the West Country look to have gained the upper hand after the consortium behind one trial said disruption by activists might force them to postpone shooting until next year and a farmer said she was pulling out of the trial following alleged intimidation.An appeal against the two trials was thrown out by the courts this summer, paving the way for culling to begin. The trials, to be held in Gloucestershire and Somerset, are not intended to prove that killing badgers halts the spread of bovine tuberculosis (research has already shown that it is ineffective). Instead they are assessing whether shooting is an effective way of culling badgers.
Team Badger, a coalition which includes the RSPCA and Queen guitarist Brian May, has led opposition to the badger cull
, calling for a boycott of milk from farms involved in the trials
. More direct action is also being planned by hunt saboteurs, who will invade cull areas and scare badgers off.
The rules of the cull say killing must take place within six weeks over each of the next four years for the trials to be effective. If the cull takes any longer there is a risk of spreading bovine TB. By disrupting the shooting, activists hope to ensure the trials cannot work.
Jan Rowe, a director of Gloscon, the company which is organising the cull in Gloucestershire, told The Sunday Times
that the activists are indeed making it difficult for them to meet the conditions of the badger cull imposed by the government.
“It may be that they could even decide they are going to postpone the whole thing for a bit. We want to go ahead and get it done because postponing would put it way into next year. It wouldn’t stop it but it would put it on another year and it wouldn’t be ideal,” he said.
At least one farmer has now pulled out of the cull because of intimidation. Carol Wainwright, whose farm is within the cull zone near Tewkesbury, said she had received threatening phone calls.
“I live with a disabled partner and I was terrified of the harassment. It worried me sick,” she said. “For all I know they could set light to my hay barn.”
The number of signatures calling for the badger cull to be abandoned has now topped 138,000. Brian May, who launched the petition, will go with the RSPCA to Brussels next month to lobby for the European Union to allow cattle to be vaccinated against bovine TB. One of the arguments against using a TB vaccine on cattle has been the question mark over whether British farmers would be shut out of export markets. ·