VIDEO: Badger cull protesters: We'll stay at cull site for six weeks
Western Morning News writer Martin Hesp found that the nation’s media out-numbered badger-cull protesters at so-called ‘Camp Badger’ yesterday as television crews, technicians and reporters gathered to speak to a small but passionate handful of animal-rights enthusiasts who’ve set up house and home on the West Somerset coast.
A team of 12 protesters camped through the night at the camp at Doniford Holt near Watchet in Somerset, following a candlelit vigil in Minehead on Monday night.
The anti-cull campaigners on an old military firing-range above crumbling cliffs near Watchet explained that most of their number were out on “badger patrol” in the Government’s Brendon, Quantock and Exmoor killing-zone.
They were also insistent that theirs would be a peaceful and legal protest involving no direct action.
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The group, whose members have travelled from as far as Brighton and Derbyshire, plan to remain at the site for the six week cull.
They are running regular patrols around nearby countryside, where the cull is being trialled, to prevent marksmen from shooting badgers.
Camp Badger has been set up on private land with the permission of the owner and comprises of cars, a few tents and minivans.
Protesters have set up a camp fire and say locals are providing food, water and firewood.
Carla, from Cornwall, said: “We are here to try to stop this – it is our one opportunity to do so.
“If we don’t, the cull will spread nationwide in areas including Cornwall, where I am from.
“We are just normal, peaceful people who are outraged.”
Pauline Kidner, founder of rescue centre Secret World Wildlife Rescue in Highbridge in Somerset, said badgers always return to their setts if injured - meaning many could die underground. Secret World, one of the largest badger cub rearing units in the UK, has pledged to treat animals injured in the cull.
Mrs Kidner said: “As with all animals including ourselves, if we are feeling ill we stop moving around so those foraging naturally will be the healthy ones, the ones that will get shot.
“I am totally against the cull despite being a dairy farmer in the past.
“This is a sad day for our countryside, our tourism and many farmers, who could well now get a TB outbreak in their herds due to the movement of the terrified badgers that are being shot at.”
Marie added: “We want to stop this slaughter.
“With a large number of people we can be very effective and we have been.”
Another protester, Maria, 44, from Wales, added: “It is hard to put a number on how many people are here, they are coming all the time.
“There are three areas we need to address, the law, the ethics and the science.
“The badger cull is not the answer on any of those areas.
“We are here for everyone, the badgers, the farmers, the cattle.
“We all need to work together. The badger is the most iconic British animal.
“When people start to see badgers being shot it will stir emotions.
“Lots of people involved are not animal activists, more will get involved and it will eventually stop.
“I just don’t know how many badgers being killed it will take to get there.”
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson defended his decision to push ahead with the cull.
He told Channel 4 News: “There is clear evidence that you cannot get rid of Bovine TB in cattle, if you only try to bear down on the disease in cattle, as we have tried to do in this country in the last 15 years. If you look at the United States, Australia, New Zealand and, above all, Ireland.
“The Republic of Ireland had a very similar problem to us, since they began culling diseased badgers they’ve seen a remarkable reduction of the disease in cattle. And very importantly they have seen much healthier badgers. The average Irish badger is one kilogram heavier than they were before the cull.
“The purpose of this cull is to show that shooting by trained marksmen, under very carefully controlled circumstances is humane and effective.”
The Republic of Ireland had seen a 23% reduction in disease in cattle since carrying out culls, he added.
He said: “We will roll out these culls should they prove to be effective and efficient in the hotspot areas.
“It is almost out of control in parts of the South West and Gloucestershire.
“We cannot go on as we are, we have lost 300,000 cattle in the last ten years. If we go on as we are, it will cost us £1 billion and we won’t have a cattle industry and we will have very, very sick wildlife.”