Somerset badger protest campers target Crown Estate

A former Camp Badger site, near Watchet in Somerset The Camp Badger protesters were asked to leave by the landowner

A campsite base for anti-badger cull protesters in Somerset could be moved on to land owned by the Crown.

Campaigners had set up a temporary Camp Badger site on private land near Watchet on Saturday, but the landowner has now asked them to move on.

Jay Tiernan, a spokesman for the Stop the Cull group, said the most likely place for a new protest camp would be on land owned by The Crown Estate.

The protesters had agreed to leave the former Doniford Halt site by 16:00 BST.

Government agency Natural England, which is overseeing the cull, said it would not disclose how many badgers had been shot since the pilot began.

'Peaceful protest'

Up to 12 people had been using the protest campsite, which comprised of cars, tents and minivans, but Mr Tiernan said many others were coming to the area and relying on staying with the group.

"We are just working out where we will regroup and looking at potential places to go," he added.

England's badger cull

  • Badgers are being shot by marksmen in the west of England as part of measures to protect cattle from bovine tuberculosis (TB)
  • The marksmen will shoot the badgers at night after putting food such as peanuts outside their setts. This method has not been formally tested before
  • Badgers are thought to pass on the disease to cattle through their urine, faeces or through droplet infection, in farmyards or in pastures
  • However, the extent of their role in the spread of bovine TB is not clear since the cows can also pass on the disease
  • According to one newspaper report, cage-trapping badgers for vaccination (or shooting) costs about £2,500 per hectare, whereas shooting them as they run freely costs about £200

"Our most likely place is The Crown Estate, where there is an opportunity for us to set up a protest camp."

In Somerset, The Crown Estate - which is governed by an Act of Parliament - owns thousands of hectares of land around Dunster and Taunton.

A spokesman said: "We respect people's right to peaceful protest."

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) confirmed on Tuesday that a badger cull was under way in Somerset.

About 5,000 badgers are expected to be killed over a six-week period in parts of west Somerset and west Gloucestershire.

Supporters say the cull is necessary to tackle bovine TB, which can be spread from infected badgers, and can make a meaningful contribution to controlling the disease.

However, opponents say a cull is inhumane and would be ineffective. They have fought the plans since the test areas were revealed last year.

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