A man believed to be an anti-badger cull protester was arrested at a site belonging to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Monday, as campaigners began gearing up for “direct action”.
Gloucestershire Police said a man had been arrested at Aston Down in Stroud on suspicion of aggravated trespass at the site, which is part of Defra’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency. The incident came ahead of the expected start of the culling trials last night.
Campaign group Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs claimed that the man arrested was Jay Tiernan, a spokesman for both the Stop the Cull protest group and the Coalition of Badger Action Groups. They wrote on Twitter: “At Ashton Down ‘death-centre’ Jay arrested trying to highlight evil place that provides the traps & carries out the autopsies.”
An estimated 5,000 badgers are set to be killed in parts of Somerset and Gloucestershire over the next six weeks, as part of a trial for the cull, with marksmen given the job of reducing the populations across the two trial sites to 70 per cent.
Badgers are blamed by many farmers for the spread of bovine tuberculosis, which the National Farmers’ Union says led to the slaughter of 38,000 cattle last year.
Defra has said that the two designated culling companies would decide when to begin the trials, but protesters were prepared for them last night. Activists will disrupt the marksmen and form a “wounded badger patrol”.
A Defra spokesman said: “Bovine TB is spreading across England and devastating our cattle… In TB hotspots such as Gloucestershire and Somerset we need to deal with the infection in badgers if we’re to get a grip on TB there. No country has dealt with the disease without tackling infection in both wildlife and cattle.”