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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map