Focus shifts from Somerset as second badger cull starts
Protesters against the badger cull were last night poised for the start of pilot scheme in Gloucestershire a week after groups gathered in Somerset in a bid to disrupt the shooting.
Gloucestershire Police revealed its response to the pilot would reach "full capacity" by 8pm last night.
Anti-cull protesters said they had been told that the shooting would begin in the Tewkesbury area of the county – with many protesters and hunt saboteurs planning disruption patrols in the area last night.
Tony Dean, chairman of the Gloucestershire Badger Group, said on Tuesday: "I have been told from a very good source that it would be tonight.
"We'll just have to wait and see but I'm sure there will be plenty of people out there.
"I don't think they'll shoot as many badgers as they say they will shoot.
"They've started in Somerset and Defra say they are having 'good results' but no one is coming out with any figures."
Mr Dean, a retired police officer from Stroud, said he took people out badger watching and hosted talks but would not be actively involved in opposing the cull.
A Gloucestershire Police spokesman said on Tuesday: "The badger cull is a Defra policy that is being implemented by private companies under licence by Natural England. It will be up to them to determine where and when it starts. However, Gloucestershire Constabulary has been planning its response to the cull since it was first announced and this response – Operation Themis – will reach its full capacity at 8pm this evening.
"The operation is aimed at keeping all our communities safe and feeling safe, dealing with any incidents of crime and public disorder and facilitating people's rights to protest.
"Our role will to be operationally independent, impartial, even-handed and fair to everyone whatever their views, interest or involvement in the pilot scheme."
The pilots, aim to tackle tuberculosis in cattle by killing around 5,000 badgers over a six-week period.
The culls aim to assess if culling can be done effectively, safely and humanely, with plans to roll out the scheme more widely in areas which are hotspots for TB in cattle.
Farmers and the Government insist culling of badgers, which can spread TB to cattle, is needed to stop spiralling rates of the disease in herds.
But opponents say culling the protected animal will have only a small effect on infection rates in cattle and will lead to badgers suffering. They want the emphasis to be on vaccines and tighter on-farm and cattle movement measures.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson insisted the decision to pilot a badger cull was "not one that has been taken lightly, but it is based on the best available scientific evidence and the experience of other countries".