Badger cull organisers' identities are leaked
The people organising pilot badger culls at two South West sites have been identified on an animal rights' website.
Farmers have responded angrily to the revelation – and have started inquiries to find out who leaked the names.
A group called the Coalition of Badger Action Groups (CBAG) has named two people responsible for organising the proposed cull in the Tewkesbury area and one in the proposed cull area in West Somerset, giving full addresses and telephone numbers.
The Western Morning News has taken the decision not to name them.
"These people are the ones who will organise the cull and employ the shooters and take the money from the farmers for doing it; they are ultimately responsible for killing our badgers," states the Bristol-based coalition.
It goes on to name the two companies formed by farming syndicates which would be licensed to carry out the culls.
The organisation says it is independent and is not restricted by the guidelines of other organisations. "We are able to organise against the cull on our own or in groups," it says. "This gives us the chance to support groups like the Badger Trust in their efforts to prevent the cull, as well as other action – demonstrating, leafleting, as well as actually being in the field during the cull."
Direct action would involve its members "being out in the fields before and during the cull, stopping and making citizen's arrests on marksmen/women when we can, filming, rescuing injured badgers and neutralising bait points".
CBAG, which labels the proposed pilot culls as a "national wildlife disaster", also says its intention is for members to watch farms that are involved in the cull, to make sure they are following correct bio-security and animal-welfare laws. It warns: "Basically, if you're a farmer and involved in this cull, expect to be under a microscope."
The publicity has caused concern and anger among farming organisations, with the National Farmers' Union (NFU) stating it would try to establish where the leaks originated and would be asking the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its licensing authority, Natural England, to co-operate.
Martin Haworth, NFU director of policy, said: "We are very disappointed that this has happened and we are doing everything we can to support and protect those individuals that have been named."
The pilot culls are part of the Government's campaign to eradicate bovine tuberculosis, which is causing havoc to cattle herds in the South West, and anguish to farmers whose herds become infected. Currently 25,000 cattle a year are being slaughtered after testing positive to regular veterinary checks, costing many millions of pounds in compensation.
The proposed culls have been delayed pending a hearing in the Court of Appeal to a ruling against the Badger Trust, which brought a judicial review action to have them stopped. The appeal is likely to be heard before the end of next month. If they go ahead they will be carried out in the two bovine TB hotspot areas, where marksmen supervised by Defra will shoot free-running badgers in 70 per cent of each location. The results would then be assessed by Government scientists before a decision was made to roll out the scheme more extensively to other areas, including in Devon and Cornwall.