'Intimidation' of badger cull farmers has begun
The threats facing farmers involved in the pending trial cull of badgers were demonstrated yesterday after animal rights extremists were accused of targeting some with letters, e-mails and text messages.
The trial cull in West Gloucestershire has already been licensed while the shooting in West Somerset is expected to be given the go ahead in the coming days.
As the start date for the shooting nears, some farmers have already been targeted by activists.
Jan Rowe, a 67-year-old dairy farmer in the Cotswolds, is a nominal director of GlosCon, a company set up to carry out the cull, although his farm is not involved.
He said police had been called a number of times to collect evidence and were regularly checking up on the farm.
“It is veiled threats to make you feel worried,” he said. “‘Watch out for your family, we know where you live’, and threatening to demonstrate on the farm. It is unsettling.
“The grandchildren come and stay — one is worried for family and other people living on the farm.”
He added: “I have seen more police cars coming down the lane this week than in the last ten years.
“Any extra cost to the taxpayer is down to protesters taking up police time. All the farmers are doing is carrying out a legal operation.”
The pilot scheme has faced major opposition with challenges in the courts and now the threat of direct action.
Last week, the RSPCA called on consumers to boycott milk from cull areas saying the products would be “soaked in badgers’ blood”.
Gavin Grant, the chief executive of the RSPCA, also called on tourists to avoid cull areas claiming that landowners should be made to feel the “commercial consequences” of allowing the cull on their land.
Ian Johnson, spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union in the South West, condemned the threats to farmers as “totally misguided, irresponsible and stupid”.
It has also emerged the Crown Estate is to allow a pilot badger cull to take place on some of its West Somerset land.
It is understood that it legal issues concerning this that has delayed the Somerset trial cull. A Crown Estate spokesman said it was working with Natural England to provide access. He said: “The Crown Estate recognises that bovine TB is a major problem for farmers, including our tenants, and is co-operating with Natural England to allow access to our land for the pilot schemes.”
Meanwhile Exmoor National Park Authority has firmly rejected calls from the League Against Cruel Sports to curtail game shooting on the moor.
Chief executive of the Animal Welfare group Joe Duckworth has written to the park authority chairman John Dyke to express “dismay” at the growth of commercial pheasant shooting on Exmoor – just a week before the start of the pheasant shooting season.
But the move backfired when the National Park hit back with statistics showing the value of game shooting to the moorland economy.
A spokeswoman said: “I don’t think people on Exmoor would thank us for trying to do anything to reduce the amount of game shooting, even if we could.
“It earns a great deal of money for Exmoor – £22 million a year in 2006 when a survey was carried out and a good deal more now – and brings visitors here at a time of year when there are very few tourists.y.”
The league complain in its letter that health and safety is compromised with birds driven over roads to the guns and that the night shooting of foxes and other animals by gamekeepers is “an accident waiting to happen.”
Mr Duckworth also alleges that the release of thousands of pheasants into the woods on shooting estates “changes the composition and character of the woods.”