Confrontation expected in south-west badger cull zones

03/06/13

Ben Barton

Animal rights activists say they will take direct action to stop thousands of badgers being shot.

Marksmen are getting set to kill more than 5,000 of the creatures in the test areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Government ministers and many farmers say it is a vital first step to controlling the disease TB in cattle across the UK.

We'll go out at night-time and disrupt shooting. We'll use bright torches with the strobe-function on and loud noises like vuvuzelas
Jay Tiernan
Stop the Cull

Activists and some scientists claim a cull is cruel, not needed and may make the problem worse.

Shooting that has been delayed since last year is now expected to go ahead within days.

It has led to fears of angry conflict in two of Britain's most rural areas.

Debra, 24, says she would go "to any lengths" to stop it.

"I can't really say how far I would go until I was in that moment," she said.

'Cows for slaughter'

Jay Tiernan from the Bristol-based group Stop the Cull says farmers in the cull-zones should expect a "bloody war".

"We'll go out at night-time and disrupt shooting," he said.

"We'll use bright torches with the strobe-function on and loud noises like vuvuzelas."

The group hopes to scare badgers underground to safety and force police to stop shooting on public safety grounds, simply by being nearby.

Ben Barton
Image caption Ben Barton, who farms near Cirencester, has lost nearly 50 cows since February

Twenty-two-year-old Ben Barton farms cattle with his dad David near Cirencester, just outside the Gloucestershire cull zone.

Ben says they have been battling the disease in their herd since he was 11, which is half his life.

Since February, nearly 50 of their cows have had to be slaughtered after testing positive for TB.

He says every time they remove stock to clean their herd, the remaining cows get re-infected by badgers sharing their fields.

"Why should we carry on just sending cows for slaughter?" he said. "Why can't we just sort out the problem?"

'Countryside interference'

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

The disease has been steadily getting worse and spreading more widely across the UK.

Newsbeat found just one cattle farmer out of dozens inside the cull areas willing to speak publicly about the planned shooting.

Others say they are scared of being targeted by activists.

Badger

"We hear people making direct threats about how we will be intimidated," said the farmer, who asked for his identity to be kept secret.

"I think we must not allow ourselves to be intimidated.

"Protesters and activists call themselves animal lovers, but they don't realise the destruction disease can cause.

"Farmers are the genuine animal lovers. We do it every day. The glorious countryside around you. That doesn't happen on its own.

"We look after the countryside. We look after the wildlife.

"It is very galling when people who know nothing about the countryside interfere."

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