PICTURES: Hundreds of protesters join in march to stop pilot cull
Hundreds of people marched through Taunton in a peaceful protest against the badger cull currently taking place in Somerset.
Despite heavy downpours on Saturday, an estimated 400-500 people took part in the march, which was organised by the Somerset Badger Patrol group and the League Against Cruel Sports.
Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, was among those present.
"It was a decent turn out," Mr Duckworth told the Western Morning News. "It was a very good march and what was really heartening was the positive response we had from people who were out shopping.
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"The only negative comment we had was that we should also be looking after the hedgehogs.
"People came from all over the Westcountry but there were also people down from London and Sheffield and places like that. It was a good demonstration of how determined people are."
Mr Duckworth spent Friday night on patrol in West Somerset and visited the camp where badger cull protesters are living.
He said groups, some 30 strong, were patrolling the area into the small hours of the morning with reports of cull activity in woodland near Dunster.
"We had reports that infrared lights were being used and in the woods, so we gathered there," he explained. "Within about five minutes, in the middle of nowhere, the police arrived. They were very nice and pleasant.
"I think that showed there was clearly something going on there, otherwise the police would not have been on hand.
"There were no sounds of shots but what I think the patrols are doing is deterring shooting from taking place – so it is having an impact."
Mr Duckworth said he doubted if the pilot culls, with the other taking place in Gloucestershire, would reach their targets or prove the humaneness of the "shooting method".
He added: "I feel very sorry for farmers. Bovine TB is horrible for the cattle and horrible for the farmers themselves but I think they have been sold a pup here. It is the most cynical kind of politics."
The West Somerset cull began on August 26 and opponents believe the shooting in Gloucestershire started last Tuesday. Bovine TB has ruined herds across Devon and Cornwall, and the pilots are designed combat the disease and test whether culling can be done effectively, safely and humanely.
Some 5,000 badgers, which can spread TB to cattle, will be shot over a six-week period.
The National Farmer's Unions and the Government insist a cull is needed to stop spiralling rates of the disease in herds.
But opponents, who believe the focus should be on vaccines and tighter cattle movement measures, say culling the animals will have only a small effect on infection rates and will lead to badgers suffering.
An online petition against the pilots, started by Queen guitarist Brian May, leader of Save Me, has become the most signed on the official Government website, with nearly 300,000 people having added their name.