UK begins cull of up to 5,000 badgers

Tuesday 27 August 2013 19.06
Demonstrators, including Queen guitarist Brian May (C), take part in a protest in central London against the cull in June
Demonstrators, including Queen guitarist Brian May (C), take part in a protest in central London against the cull in June

The first pilot badger cull has begun in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset in the UK.

Around 5,000 badgers are expected to be culled over the next six weeks, where two pilot schemes are taking place in an attempt to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB).

Activists from campaign group Stop The Cull gathered in Gloucestershire yesterday to form a "wounded badger patrol".

Somerset Badger Patrol last night organised a vigil event in Minehead against the cull.

In a statement on its Facebook page after the event it said: "Over 200 people tonight at the procession, thank you all so much for coming ... We fight on, knowing that we are right helps."

Stop The Cull claimed on its Facebook page that more than 500 people turned out to protest at both sites last night.

Campaigners have vowed to stop the cull going ahead and there have already been clashes with police.

An anti-cull activist was yesterday arrested at a site belonging to the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The man, named in reports as Jay Tiernan, who runs the Stop The Cull campaign, was chased on foot by police and arrested after climbing over a barbed wire fence into Aston Down in Stroud.

He was arrested by Gloucestershire Police on suspicion of aggravated trespass at the site.

He told ITV News that he was trying to gather photographic evidence after hearing reports that 200 "rusty cages" and "industrial sized fridges" were being prepared to hold dead badgers.

On Thursday, a High Court judge made an order to stop farmers involved in badger culls being harassed and abused.

Mr Justice Turner granted an injunction at a High Court hearing in London after lawyers representing the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said farmers had been targeted.

The culls are taking place to combat the spread of bovine TB, which the NFU said led to the slaughter of 38,000 cattle last year.

The cull was due to begin last autumn, but was postponed while research continued into the population numbers in both areas.

The UK government said west Somerset had approximately 4,300 badgers, with west Gloucestershire's population put at 3,600.

The aim is to kill 70% of the animals, with west Somerset being set a minimum target of 2,081 and a maximum of 2,162. West Gloucestershire was set a minimum of 2,856 and a maximum of 2,932.

The culls, which will be carried out annually for four years, last six weeks and are allowed to take place between 1 June and 31 January.

If they are successful in stopping the spread of bovine TB, they could be rolled out, saving millions in compensation to farmers.

Keywords: badgers