Thursday, 29 November 2012



On one side, farmers blame badgers for spreading tuberculosis among their cattle, destroying livelihoods and leading to the slaughter of herds. On the other side, the Government’s plan to tackle the problem by shooting thousands of badgers has met with vocal opposition led by the RSPCA and Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist.
Yet behind the peaceful face of the anti-cull movement, a more sinister element has emerged. Seasoned protesters, ranging from veteran hunt saboteurs to animal rights extremists, have begun to join the badgers’ cause.
They include a woman who was branded a “terrorist” by a high court judge for her part in a campaign against a guinea pig farm, and a veteran protester who was one of the founders of the Hunt Saboteurs Association in the 1960s.
Last week the first licence for a pilot cull was issued, which could lead to 3,000 badgers being killed on 300 farms in Gloucestershire over the next four years. A second cull, in Somerset, is set to be licensed soon.
Leaders of the anti-cull campaign have mounted legal challenges and gathered signatures on petitions. The RSPCA has urged shoppers to boycott “milk from farms soaked in badgers’ blood”.
But hardliners have gone further, vowing to disrupt the culls using “direct action” tactics – such as disrupting the night-time shooting expeditions with bright lights and loudhailers.
At a meeting in Bristol, organised by the Badger Trust, hundreds of opponents gathered to discuss tactics. They heard speeches from May and from the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports, and Humane Society International.
But also present was Amanda King, one of 13 activists who were branded “terrorists” by a high court judge in 2005 for their part in a hate campaign against the owners of Darley Oaks guinea pig farm in Newchurch, Staffs
King was among those named in an injunction ordering protesters to stay away from the homes of the Hall family, near the farm.
The campaign culminated in the remains of the family’s grandmother being dug up from a grave in a church cemetery, although there is no suggestion that Miss King played a part in the disinterment.
The judge who granted the injunction said the family had been subjected to a “menacing and prolonged guerrilla campaign” that had traumatised a whole community, with firebomb attacks, hoax bombs, paint thrown over doors, cars damaged, bricks thrown through windows, smear campaigns, and electricity and phone lines cut.
In 2006 Oxford University took out an injunction against a number of activists, including Miss King, barring them from harassing its staff, students and contractors at work or protesting at their homes.
It followed two years of protests against the university that led to the chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, Britain’s biggest drugs company, warning that his firm might move its research operations abroad if harassment by animal rights extremists worsened.
Miss King has attended at least two Badger Trust meetings about the culls. She is a member of Speak – the Voice for the Rights of Animals, a campaign to stop animal testing in Britain.
Mel Broughton, 51, Speak’s founder, is serving a ten-year sentence for arson after carrying out a firebombing campaign against Oxford University.
Miss King refused to comment.
Also at the meeting was Ian Pedler, 65, a leading anti-hunting campaigner for almost half a century.
He joined the League Against Cruel Sports at the age of 10 and was among the founding members of the more radical Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) when it broke away from the League in 1963, committed to disrupting hunts using the new tactic of laying false scented trails to confuse the hounds.
Mr Pedler, who had teeth knocked out in a skirmish at a hunt in the early 1960s, serving for a time as chairman of the HSA, and drafted its first manifesto in 1965.
He retired from active campaigning in the 1980s, while continuing with his day job as a mental health worker, but has since written a book against stag hunting.
Mr Pedler told The Sunday Telegraph that whilst he was no longer involved in any direct action, he supported such tactics and would encourage activists to use them to stop badger culling.
He said: “I think it’s the most effective way of achieving your goals. The Government won’t listen to a load of peaceful campaigns. The only way of getting what you want is through direct action.”
Calls for opponents of the cull to turn out and disrupt the shooting have been made by the HSA and by an organisation called the Coalition of Badger Action Groups (CBAG).
Last month CBAG’s website publicised the names, addresses and telephone numbers of some of the farmers involved in the cull.
This month it has published the personal details, of Owen Paterson, the new Environment Secretary, as well as those of other ministers, government officials and employees of the National Farmers Union.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) secured an injunction against the website and the personal details were removed. But so called “mirror” websites have since been set up outside the UK, with all the personal details restored.
The website against which the injunction was served,, has been owned since 1999 by Debbie Vincent, a prominent animal rights activist who is currently awaiting trial for an unconnected serious offence.
Vincent claimed she “hasn’t updated a single sentence” for four to five years.
Instead the website, and CBAG, are now run by a man who gives his name only as 'Jay’.
He claims to be a former soldier and one of the founding members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a group that were branded “urban terrorists” by a judge in 2009 when he jailed seven members over a campaign of intimidation against the research firm Huntingdon Life Sciences.
'Jay’ also claims to have been involved in the controversial Save the Hillgrove Cats campaign, in which a farm’s owner was subjected to repeated death threats and had letter-bombs were sent to his home.
He says he has been arrested and convicted “a number of times” for offences such as aggravated trespass and criminal damage, and was questioned by police but never charged during the investigation into SHAC’s activities.
Watch RSPCA Gavin Grant Calling for naming and shaming of Farmers on BBC Panorama;

View full programme here;


Farmers’ Union Wales has criticised the Charity Commission's "blessing" of RSPCA's “misleading campaigning” against the badger cull, saying the campaign brings the whole charity sector into disrepute.
The union was responding to comments made by RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant in a Panorama documentary last week, when he said the charity would “name and shame” those involved in the cull in England.
FUW animal health and welfare committee chairman Catherine Nakielny said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that these threats have brought the RSPCA into extreme disrepute amongst farmers.”
She accused the Commission of having an “anything goes” policy because it had not taken action against the charity following previous complaints about its campaigning activity.
Nakielny went so far as to say: “When an organisation becomes this radicalised and openly threatens an entire community then that not only brings the charity into disrepute but also undermines the very principles we all associate with charitable behaviour. It basically brings all registered charities and the body which governs them into disrepute.”
 She added: “For those thousands who feel intimidated by theRSPCA's escalating threats, the actions of the charity are anything but charitable, yet the Charity Commission seems happy to give such extremism its blessing.
“If the Charity Commission believes that it does not have the powers to effectively deal with such aggression then it should seek to extend its powers.”
Charity Commission responds
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said that the regulator had “had a handful of complaints about the RSPCA in relation to the proposed badger cull” but that charity law permits charities to campaign and that “on the evidence we have seen, we believe the RSPCA’s involvement falls within the scope the law permits”.
She added: “We recognise that the charity’s campaign against the badger cull has been high-profile and controversial, and that it is likely to have had an impact on the charity’s reputation – this is for the trustees to manage.”
Responding to the accusation that the Commission had not acted appropriately she said: “Their complaint has been reviewed by a different Commission manager, as set out in our complaints procedure, who has replied to the FUW agreeing with the Commission’s initial conclusions.”
RSPCA refutes accusation of extremism
The National Farmers’ Union also voiced its concerns about the RSPCA, following the broadcast of the Panorama documentary. Director of policy Martin Haworth said: “With these comments RSPCA’s chief executive has overstepped the mark and in doing so confirmed our worst fears that the RSPCA is no longer a responsible organisation with animal welfare at its core.”


FORMER RSPCA employee has hit out at the charity’s ‘extremist’ stance on the badger cull, which he claims is damaging its long-term credibility.
Last week, RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant was shown on national television warning that contractors and farmers involved in the planned autumn pilot cull would be ‘named and shamed’. In September he called for consumers to boycott milk not labelled as ‘badger friendly’ if the culls went ahead, suggesting ‘those who care will not want to visit areas or buy milk from farms soaked in badgers’ blood’.David McDowell, a former RSPCA acting chief veterinary adviser, said he feared Mr Grant’s controversial approach was jeopardising the charity’s ability to work with farmers on animal welfare issues.
“It does not sit well with me at all – it might get some nice headlines for a day or two but it gets you nowhere in the long-term,” he said.
“If the RSPCA is going to be a credible welfare organisation, it has got to take a moderate stance and it has got to look at the science behind the issues.
Mr McDowell, who worked closely with farmers as a private vet in Otley before joining the RSPCA, worked for the charity between 1999 and 2007, specialising in equines.
Mr McDowell, who is now ‘effectively retired’ but has performed inspection work for RSPCA this year, said there was a ‘reasonable scientific approach’ within the farm animal department towards TB during his time at the charity.
But members of the RSPCA council ‘did not want the hard scientific facts to upset their comfortable prejudices’, he claimed.
Under Mr Grant, the RSPCA has gone further, increasingly giving the impression of being an ‘extremist organisation’, he added.
“He is just stirring, playing to the gallery of badger lovers,” Mr McDowell said. “I got the best results by talking to people and trying to learn the facts and see things other peoples’ way. I always argued that if you wanted to convert someone round to your way of thinking, you would not achieve it by starting off kicking them in the balls.”
Mr McDowell said, while, he did not support mass culling, there was a need to break the cycle of bovine TB infection between cattle and badgers that occurs on farms, particularly around feed troughs. “It makes sense’ to reduce badger numbers where they were doing the most damage,” he said.
He said the RSPCA should also be taking into account the welfare implications of bTB for both cattle and badgers.“Cattle are suffering, badgers are suffering and there is a risk of human suffering. If a badger is suffering with TB you can make an argument that the best thing to do is kill it as humanely as possible. Why wouldn’t you try and get a policy acceptable to all concerned?” he said.
He said he had chosen to speak because he was ‘infuriated’ at seeing farmers ‘vilified’ by Mr Grant who he claimed was either unaware of the facts surrounding bTB and badgers or deliberately ignoring them.
He added that the RSPCA as a law-enforcing organisation should be ‘scrupulously careful to work within the law’ and should ‘not be having a go at people doing their best to carry out a cull within the law’.
“Just going out on a limb and saying everybody who culls badgers is evil and we will name and shame them, what will it achieve other than cheap headlines?” Mr McDowell said.