Cull saboteurs: 'We will put ourselves between the bullets and the badgers'

Sarah Morrison delves inside the secret world of the people trying to stop the mass shootings

A A A

Lynn, a 46-year-old midwife, finds a novel way to fill her days off. The one-time hunter is now a hunt saboteur who finds herself at the centre of the Government’s controversial badger cull. She splits her time between maternity wards and patrolling country estates of Worcestershire.

She is just one of an estimated 700 saboteurs who are fighting the plan to use licensed marksmen to shoot around 5,000 badgers in two pilot cull zones in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Around 500 of them are prepared to trespass on property to disrupt the cull.  “Obviously at night we’ll be finding the marksmen and putting ourselves between the bullets and the badgers,” Lynn told The Independent.

The badger cull row tearing up the countryside shows no sign of dissipating. While ministers argue that a cull is necessary to curb the spread of tuberculosis in cattle; critics argue that the cull is unethical or scientifically and economically flawed.

The coalition of opponents might be diverse – it includes Queen guitarist Brian May, TV presenter David Attenborough, and some prominent scientists – but it is the hunt saboteurs who stand accused of directing a “reign of terror” on farmers.

But Lynn believes they have been unfairly smeared. “The typical stereotypical image of the hunt sab is someone dressed head-to-toe in black, someone who doesn’t work, a 20-something-year-old male, but that’s absolute nonsense. The farming industry makes us out to be terrorists, or all evil people, but we’re individuals,” she said.

Lynn, who has a number of animal rights convictions for her involvement in anti-hunting and anti-vivisection campaigns, founded the group 3 Counties Hunt Saboteurs, last year. She gave up hunting after she saw some “terrible things” done to foxes, deer, hares and mink. She said that “very committed” new people were joining the “sabs”, or saboteurs, and scouring the fields straight from work.

“We’re seeing doctors, teachers, all sorts of people,” said Lynn, who can spend up to 50 hours a week checking badger setts, organising volunteers, or doing outreach. She also works as a midwife on a shift basis at a local hospital, usually at night. “I’m actually quite open about things,” she said. “Some of my colleagues do know, just as I am aware of what they do out of work.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, national co-ordinator for domestic extremism at the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last year that clashes between protesters and cullers could pose “clear potential harm to public safety”. He added that there was “some potential for unlawful direct action, disorder and criminality” if the cull went ahead.

This week it emerged that officers policing the culls have carried out “wargames” with animal rights activists and cullers to simulate confrontations that might occur. Inspector Mark Ravenscroft of Gloucestershire Police said enforcing the cull remained a “big concern.” He stressed that the force will “allow people to bend the law to protest peacefully” by allowing a short protest on a highway, for example, to stop a group blocking the road all day.

But Elaine, a 49-year-old social care worker, who has volunteered as a hunting sab for over 25 years, said saboteurs “were not aggressors”. The Herefordshire-born activist treads a thin line between horse-owning country enthusiast and animal-rights crusader.

“I ride, I have my own horses, and I have drag hunted, but I was brought up to love and respect animals,” she said. “I don’t feel the need to go out in a balaclava. Work knows what I’m like and they don’t mind.”

She denied sabs were using intimidating techniques and dismissed claims that by trespassing, she could be breaching the law. “Whatever [the cull] is doing is 100 times worse that what I’m doing. When it comes to saving lives, if I have to tread off a footpath to do it, it’s worth it,” she said.

Michael, who is in his late sixties and has seven grandchildren, wants to help stop the cull. The retired builder lives in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and has been involved in animal rights for 50 years. The former trustee of a wildlife rescue centre said: “This unscientific experiment they’re doing is wrong. I’ll help as much as I can; [the grandchildren] are right behind me. I spend four out of five days a week surveying and mapping sites, and checking setts aren’t baited. We’ve definitely got public support.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “People have a right to protest but this must be carried out within the law. The pilot culls are a legal and lawful activity and it is wholly unacceptable that those involved should be subject to intimidation or be a target for criminal activity.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project