Four arrested as Brian May heads to front line of badger cull protests

Gloucestershire remains a hotspot for clashes between protesters against the cull and the farmers and landowners who support it

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The Independent Online

Police have arrested four people on suspicion of trespassing in a badger cull area ahead of a visit from Queen guitarist and anti-cull activist Brian May.

Officers were called following reports a group had strayed from a public footpath and were blowing horns, in the countryside around the Forthampton area in Gloucestershire.

A police spokesman said that the four were arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault after they refused to give officers their names and addresses, but were released shortly afterwards.

A statement read: “At around 2am this morning police responded to reports of horns being blown and individuals straying from a public footpath in the Forthampton area.

“Four people were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass and refused to give officers their details.

“A short while later they responded to the officer's request for their information and were de-arrested at the scene.

“They were not taken to custody.”

The arrests came as Queen guitarist Brian May was set to visit the cull zone in the county.

May, a leading opponent of the cull, will be in the Tewkesbury area to meet residents and discuss their views on the pilot taking place on their doorstep.

The music legend, who is a member of the Team Badger campaign, will also join a peaceful night walk being staged by anti-cull activists.

An online petition that May started against the pilots has become the most signed on the official Government website, with nearly 300,000 people having added their name.

“It remains a clear indication of the depth and continued growth of public outrage over Environment Secretary of State Owen Paterson's plan to kill thousands of badgers in the UK,” May said.

“It's also now the most unpopular thing this Government has ever done, if their own petition website is any measure.” The NFU confirmed that the west Somerset cull began last week and opponents believe the shooting in west Gloucestershire started on Tuesday night.

The controversial pilots aim to tackle tuberculosis in cattle by killing around 5,000 badgers over a six-week period.

The culls aim to assess if culling can be done effectively, safely and humanely, with plans to roll out the scheme more widely in areas that are hotspots for TB in cattle.

Farmers and the Government insist culling of badgers, which can spread TB to cattle, is needed to stop spiralling rates of the disease in herds.

But opponents say culling the protected animal will have only a small effect on infection rates in cattle and will lead to badgers suffering.

They want the emphasis to be on vaccines and tighter on-farm and cattle movement measures.

May said that he would oppose any steps to expand the badger cull beyond Gloucestershire and Somerset.

“We may be too late to prevent this tragedy happening in west England. But we will continue to stand against this,” he said.

“The cull is an irreversible tragedy for our wildlife. Randomly slaughtering 70 per cent of badgers will destroy them forever, bringing about immense suffering for these highly intelligent mammals.

“But the cull is a tragedy for farmers and their cattle too. The NFU have managed to convince a large portion of the farming community that this scheme offers them relief from their troubles, but there will be no way to ascertain if culling has been effective.

“Indeed, Owen Paterson has stated that he expects to be culling badgers in 25 years time, underlining the fact that culling cannot eradicate TB.

“Contrary to insistence of late, culling has never eradicated TB in any other country in the world.

“The cull has no basis in science - which simply means it will not work.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press