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?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor