Dispute continues on Exmoor site of dead badger
Police are investigating claims a marksman attempting to recover a shot badger was threatened by anti-cull protesters shining torches and pointing a “long item” he believed to be a gun.
The probe appears to contradict repeated denials by Government officials that the animal whisked away by cull saboteurs and presented to the media earlier this month could not have been killed by official shooters.
Campaigners believe the animal, dubbed “badger 102” after its name tag, was able to flee after being shot.
They say this disproves official claims that all badgers are being killed instantly and that the cull is humane.
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Avon and Somerset police are satisfied the creature was not shot illegally but killed lawfully in the designated zone, though they are investigating claims that a weapon was used.
Opponents of the cull have criticised the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) for denying the animal had been part of the controversial cull.
However, Defra insists it was given a different location by journalists, namely Timberscombe, rather than the actual spot at Old Stowey Farm, around 3km to the south.
It said contractors confirmed no-one was shooting at Timberscombe, which was too far away for the injured animal to have travelled.
The department has condemned the activists’ behaviour as “unacceptable” and says it cannot be sure the badger displayed was the one from the incident until tests are completed.
The dead animal was taken from the Exmoor farm site before the marksman was able to retrieve it, after 2am on September 14.
The young female was spirited away by activists and handed to animal charity Secret World Wildlife Rescue, who released photographs of the creature.
Adrian Coward, chairman of the Somerset Badger Group, was handed the carcass around 7am that morning at Secret World and currently has it "at a safe location" awaiting independent tests.
Mr Coward said he believed it was unlikely that guns were being carried by protestors, considering how heavily policed the area was.
“I cannot imagine anyone is going to take a chance of being caught with a weapon as we are all regularly stopped and searched by police,” he added.
“Maybe people are out there with sticks.”
"The police told me the story the marksman told them. On the Saturday morning, police stopped cars looking for rocks saying people were throwing stones at shooters.
"Defra's first reaction was that it was nothing to do with them but there is no debate about whether it was in the cull zone - it is right smack bang in the middle.
"The whole thing stinks - they are just trying to hide the real scenario."
A vet who examined the badger at Secret World said it would likely have survived for a few minutes after the shot.
Avon and Somerset police said: "After speaking to the organisation, and a third party who was in possession of the carcass, we are satisfied at this stage that no offences were committed under the Protection of Badgers Act.
"At 2.15am on Saturday September 14, a contractor working near Wheddon Cross was approached by several people who threatened him and forced him to retreat to his vehicle and leave the area.
"A long item was pointed at the victim but at this stage we do not know what it is.
"The threats made to the contractor are currently being investigated."
Defra added: "The contractor withdrew to avoid a confrontation and when he returned later to retrieve the body of the dead badger he discovered it had been taken away.
"We're offering the police all the help we can because it's completely unacceptable for people lawfully carrying out the cull to be subjected to threats and intimidation."