“The idea is to make as much noise as possible so the badgers don’t come out.”
From The Guardian : The latest on the cull – an exercise in ridiculousness – and people’s responses…
4pm “Camp Badger”, a small protest group set up near Watchet on the north Somerset coast, is peacefully evicted. “I feel disgusted. I’ve had six hours’ sleep in three nights. We feel hated and despised. We have been intimidated and followed wherever we go. It’s very secretive and furtive out there,” says Marie from Bristol.
7.45pm More than 60 people, aged between seven and 60, from the Somerset badger group meet at Williton. They wear high-visibility vests and split into three groups to spend the night patrolling woods and footpaths around Monksilver and Carhampton. Five other groups are going out farther south. “I have come from Reading. This is so awful. I cannot sit at home and do nothing. It’s senseless,” says Josie. “The idea is to make as much noise as possible so the badgers don’t come out.”
8pm Jess,from Tiverton, reports activity as night falls. “I met two friends and we drove to Stogumber. It was quiet, so we went on to Monksilver. They had shut off all the footpaths. There were security guards everywhere. I could see lights and hear dogs. One car had been converted to an ambulance.”
8.30pm Sixty-three marksmen, licensed and trained by Defra, have spread out over the 100-square-mile Somerset pilot cull area. They will work till around 3am in groups of three, with high velocity rifles, silencers and infrared sights and lamps. They are paid £10 for each badger killed and £20 for disposing of the bodies. One acts as as spotter, the others shoot. The cull is being conducted by a company of farmers over sparsely populated, heavily wooded countryside. They plan to kill nearly 70% of the badgers in the pilot area but the NFU admits it does not know how many are in the area.
9pm The RSPCA reports by phone that they have collected the body of a badger, which has reportedly been shot in its rear legs and may have been trying to escape the shooters.
9.35pm “It is like a military operation, very well organised. It is being done very quietly on big estates that the public do not have access to,” says Vanessa Mason, a volunteer Defra-trained vaccinator who has spent the morning trapping and vaccinating badgers for a landowner.
9.35pm Sue, Anne, Sally, Kath, Caleb and eight others from Reading and elsewhere walk up Withycombe hill where they have been tipped off by the police that the shooters will be. “We are just doing our bit. We’re peaceful. It’s shrouded in secrecy,” says Lynne, from Bath.
9.45pm Rupert Dod, the Exmoor cattle farmer in charge of the Somerset cull, has refused to say anything in public. But the landlord of the Rest and be Thankful pub at Wheddon’s Cross, his local, dials his home telephone for the Guardian.
“Rupert, can you tell us how the cull is going?”
“Who is that?”
“What the? No comment. Talk to the NFU. I am not speaking to you. I have nothing to say.”
“But this is costing £500,000. The public has a right to know.”
“No. No comment.” [Puts phone down] The Guardian is asked to leave.
10pm Two groups of monitors independently report hearing shots and seeing spotlights in woods near Monksilver. “Several groups of marksmen appear to be shooting in privately owned fields at night where public access is limited. One man tells us he has seen a loose dog running in the light of a spotlight down a hedgerow. Two people standing at a road junction say they heard shots fairly close by followed by a short pause, followed by four shots in quick succession, the sound of excited dogs barking, then shouts and spotlights,” says Frances, a former TV producer who is out with one group.
10.30pm Raleghs Cross Inn on Exmoor. Five hunt saboteurs, from Bristol and elsewhere, dressed in black, emerge from a wood. “We know where all the setts are. We’ve done the surveys. Now we are looking for observation points. We use old Sony cameras. If you take the UV filter off you can see the infrared that the shooters use. [Sabs] are turning up from all over and there will be many more coming at weekends. We have broken up the cull zone into smaller areas. Different areas have taken different patches. This is London and Brighton, Bristol is another,” says John.
10.50pm A police officer in an unmarked car tells the Guardian: “We’re from Bristol. We have been drafted in. We don’t know what’s going on ourselves. I haven’t seen any shooters.”
11.20pm Saboteur group reports “crack, crack, crack, every five seconds” from woods near Stogumber.
1am “We were forced to move on by security guards,” says Jess. “Then a white 4×4 followed us. We were told it’s kicking off near Dunster with lots of shooting going on. We got penned in to a hedge by guys in a 4×4 following us for 10 mins. ‘You should not be around here,’ they said menacingly. Then we were stopped by the police and detained for an hour. But we are entirely legal and have not been been off the footpaths.”
1am Amanda, from Bristol: “A saloon car drives past, slows down to look at us – goes a little way up, turned, then accelerates towards us. The driver shouts ‘why don’t you go home, you fucking weirdos.’ Later, a young woman driver leans out of a car and says to a young girl and her mother: ‘C U on Tuesday.’ The 15-year-old knows it means cunt. Who’s intimidating who? How divisive is this policy? It’s polarising communities, escalating tension, there’s an appalling lack of transparency … whose wildlife is it?”
1am Shooting with high velocity and silenced rifles going on in the woods near Treborough.
2.30am A group of four Somerset protesters reports hearing shots followed by dogs barking and “a badger screaming” in woods close to Stogumber. They report the incident to the police and to Natural England. “This is worrying because dogs are not allowed to be used,” says Clare from the Somerset badger group.
2.45am “Where are the official cull monitors? Who can say what is going on? This is like a warzone. It’s a witch-hunt against badgers,” says Jill, from Bristol
3am Monksilver badger group reports “reckless and dangerous driving” of a tractor seen tailgating a small white hatchback along a narrow, steep lane. “It was careering down the lane after it, headlights flashing, horn hooting, hazard lights flashing, it caught up with the car and tail-gated it out of view. It appeared as if it was trying to ram the car,” says Amanda.
3am Hunt sabs report: “One of our vehicles was rammed by very irate cullers in a 4×4 down a farm drive They torrented our guys with abuse and drove off. Police were informed and a crime number obtained.”
2.30pm NFU: “We have no comment to make on the cull.”
4pm Ranald Monro, chair of Defra’s independent expert panel of monitors declines to comment. “It would be inappropriate. It may be appropriate when the pilot [culls] are completed and the independent expert panel has had the opportunity to consider the results. Perhaps Defra can be of assistance to you?”
4.45pm Defra: “You need to speak to the NFU.”
4.30pm James Small, Somerset livestock farmer: “Passions are running high on all sides. Results will be made available at the end of the cull. Operationally, I don’t know how it is going.”