‘Tempers rising over badger cull as farmers confront activists’

Posted on September 30, 2012


Yesterday (29th September), an item was posted on guardian.co.uk titled ‘Tempers rising over badger cull as farmers confront activists’.

‘… As saboteurs mobilise and signatures on the e-petition of rock star Brian May soar, tensions are running high over plans to eradicate bovine TB in a shooting campaign – a policy which a government adviser has branded ‘crazy’ –

… This latest run-in between country folk and town folk, the old stereotypes from the days of mad cow disease and the fox hunt debate, have come back to haunt farmers.

On one side is the image of the hard-nosed farmer with his shotgun who stuffs his cows with too many antibiotics; on the other anti-cull supporters are accused of being over-sentimental townies who want their food cheap and animals cuddly. When the shooting finally starts, it is expected to get far worse. Hunt saboteurs and animal rights activists last week held meetings in Bristol and Brighton to start mobilising volunteers prepared to take part in night patrols across 300 sq km (116 sq miles) of Gloucestershire. Armed with vuvuzelas and high-visibility vests, activists are being encouraged to take dogs and to urinate on any bait traps they find to scare the animals away. They are being asked not to set off fireworks.

Some anti-cull campaigners have been posting contact details for pro-cull MPs and farmers and, although organisers are appealing for people to remain polite, last week Jan Rowe, a farmer from Cheltenham, said he and his wife, Gill, had been targeted by hate mail. Tripadvisor had to take down dozens of nasty comments posted under Mrs Rowe’s B&B listing on the holiday website.

Farmer baiting and animal activist mocking is set to become an internet sport …

Jack Reedy of the Badger Trust said: “It’s an ugly spot we’re in. Everyone is getting nervous about the debate and coming out on one side or the other. There’s pressure on farmers as a body to back this and say vaccination won’t help, but there’s a lot feeling uncomfortable. We have farmers being intimidated.”

Tony Hunt has been making nocturnal visits to the same family of badgers at a sett near his Gloucestershire home for more than 25 years and, although he is against activism, admits: ‘They’d have a job stopping me going up to sit there every night if they were coming for my family sett.

“There’s no science to support a cull. It won’t work. A lot of farmers I know don’t want it. But they can’t talk about it out in the open any more for fear they’ll be hung, drawn and quartered. I know of at least one who has been threatened.

“After the foot and mouth, when people were replenishing their herds and moving cattle all over the country, no one was testing them for TB first. In the 1970s an opportunity to develop a vaccine was lost. The government has let it slip. They don’t even know how many badgers there are. They don’t know how many of them have TB.”

EU laws currently prevent cattle from being vaccinated against the disease because the effect of current inoculations can make it difficult to detect if the disease is present. That ban discourages any pharmaceutical company from getting involved in the research.

Scientist Lord Krebs, a government adviser who led an eight-year study into the spread of bovine TB, has also branded the two government-led culls as “crazy”.

The debate has been further polarised by the RSPCA, which has come out against the cull and ignited further controversy as chief executive Gavin Grant called for “badger-friendly” labels on milk and yoghurt so shoppers can boycott farms involved in culls.

“This campaign is gathering incredible momentum,” he said. “The speed of this growth shows the scale of public interest. The government must listen to what the public are saying and give this matter parliamentary time. It needs to look at this science and reverse this short-sighted decision immediately to one of vaccination. Let’s cure, not kill.”

An e-petition set up by former Queen guitarist Brian May moved over the 136,000 signatories mark yesterday, something which supporters hope will win badgers a debate in the Commons over their fate. So far, out of 10 petitions which have passed the 100,000 signature threshold, eight have won a parliament debate …’

Read the item in full, view graphic and add your comment online at www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/30/badger-cull-bovine-tb-farmers?newsfeed=true


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