Animal rights group to protest against badger cull

28/09/12

Badger

Badgers will be baited and shot by marksmen in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset within weeks.

The cull is meant to help slow the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.

Bovine TB costs taxpayers millions, and means thousands of cows are slaughtered each year.

Campaigners claim the plans are cruel and will have little impact on the TB problem. Some of them say they will use torches and vuvuzela horns to disrupt shooting.

Animal rights campaigner 'Jay' is part of a group that's spent weeks pinpointing badger setts (underground dens) around the two cull zones.

"We build up an idea, a map, of the zones," he says. "By doing that we can protect them."

Jay isn't his real name, but he keeps his true identity a secret.

Vuvuzela horns

The government says, if the test culls go well, they could be repeated across England.

Badger campaigner 'Jay'
Image caption Campaigner 'Jay' will use torches and vuvuzela horns to save badgers

Jay says his group is ready to disrupt things, with 'hi-viz' jackets, torches, and vuvuzela horns.

He says they plan to use noise, movement and confusion to drive badgers underground, safely away from shotguns.

"The marksmen then have to make a decision," he says.

"Do they sit there and hope that we'll go away so they can shoot some badgers? Or do they go on to the next sett?

"If they do that, we'll follow them, onto the next one. Onto the next one."

They also believe urinating on bait-points will keep badgers away.

Unlike previous test culls, badgers will be shot in the open without first being trapped in cages.

Many say that in particular is inhumane.

Elsewhere, a petition led by Queen guitarist Brian May has got well over 100,000 signatures.

The RSPCA wants "badger-friendly" labels on milk and yoghurt so shoppers can boycott farms involved in culls.

'Unscrupulous' groups

Twenty-three-year-old farm worker 'Gary' lives in the Gloucestershire cull zone and also wants his real identity kept secret.

Like many farmers, he says he's scared of "unscrupulous" animal rights groups.

We just want to get fresh, clean, healthy animals back into the system
'Gary', Farmer

"They've burned down places," he says.

"They'll send offensive mail or death threats."

The National Farmers Union says TB in cattle is "out of control" and growing. Nearly 35,000 cows had to be slaughtered last year alone.

The disease also costs taxpayers millions in compensation to farmers and other expenses.

"We don't want to wipe them [badgers] out," insists Gary.

"We just want to get fresh, clean, healthy animals back into the system.

"If we can control the numbers, we won't have problems with TB."

Over the border in Wales, they individually trap and inject badgers with vaccine.

It's a laborious and expensive process but a more cost-effective oral vaccine is still a long way off.

Farmers also point out a cattle vaccine is years away because of stringent EU checks.

Gary admits culling is only part of the solution but he says things have to start improving soon.

"We've got to keep at it until we've sorted the problem. A, for the badger and B, for the cows."