Police: We won't be able to cope with badger cull protests

Cash-strapped forces fear for public safety if farmers and activists clash over shootings

A A A

Ministers have been warned that police forces will struggle to cope if plans to shoot badgers trigger a dangerous stand-off between armed farm workers and animal rights protesters.

In a memo obtained by The Independent on Sunday, the head of the police unit dealing with domestic extremism warns of the "clear potential for harm to public safety" if protesters clash with farmers carrying out a cull. Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, is expected to make an announcement within weeks on a cull of badgers, which are blamed for spreading TB to cattle. In July, she said she was "strongly minded" to go ahead, in a move that could see tens of thousands of badgers killed. Two trials could begin next year.

But in an email to the Government, Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, the national co-ordinator for domestic extremism, warned that forces could be overwhelmed by protests. Officers already face budget cuts, he said, and several major sporting and political events over the next three years, including the 2012 London Olympics, the G8 summit in 2013 and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"Given the difficult nature of policing this initiative, the steps forces are taking to respond to new financial pressures and the proximity of this initiative to other competing priorities... forces will find themselves under huge pressures to manage even small but sustained campaign activity, particularly where that includes unlawful direct action and subsequent criminal investigations."

The most likely action, he claimed, includes arson to destroy or damage property and "psychological harm" against supporters f a cull. Writing on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Det Ch Supt Tudway warns against "pitting farmers against activists", which "has the potential to create divisions and therefore conflict within rural communities".

Police in Devon and Cornwall, one of the areas worst affected by bovine TB, have written to MPs to assure them the force has "plans in place to respond to protests". Forces are able to claim for a special or extraordinary grant from the Home Office if costs to police protests exceed 1 per cent of their annual budget.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stresses that it has worked closely with the Home Office and other ministries in drawing up the cull plans. Marksmen will be licensed by Natural England, with officials expecting most to be gamekeepers and others already involved in annual deer culls.

Compensation to farmers whose herds are depleted by TB costs the taxpayer up to £100m a year. Each cull is expected to cost farmers £1.4m. Labour's Mary Creagh has condemned the plans as " bad for farmers, bad for badgers and bad for the taxpayer".

The campaign group 38 Degrees, which mobilised opposition to the Government's NHS reforms and forests sell-off, has vowed to campaign against the cull. The Badger Trust also has the support of the Queen guitarist Brian May, and the RSPCA has claimed the move marks a "black day" for badgers.

"Any option that includes farmers and landowners culling badgers with firearms has potential to place armed farm workers in the near vicinity of protesters and activists, typically during the night-time," Det Ch Supt Tudway warned. "We regard this as a scenario with clear potential for harm to public safety. We see particular challenges where farm workers with little or no experience of trapping badgers in order to shoot them (while still caged) are attempting to do so under the gaze of activists."

A Defra source insisted that no final cull decision has been taken, adding: "We have taken on board all interested parties' concerns and will make sure that the granting of licences will be based on the advice that we have received."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living