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;

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