Anti-badger cull activists accused of 'campaign of intimidation' against ministers

 

Anti-badger cull activists have been accused of an “organised campaign of intimidation” by the Government after the home address of the new environment minister was published on a website.

The personal details of Owen Paterson was published alongside those of other ministers, government officials and employees of the National Farmers Union.

A trial cull is due to begin in the West Country later this month, aimed at stemming the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.

The website, belonging to a group known as the Coalition of Badger Action Groups, urged opponents of the cull to cold-call ministers, officials and farmers involved in organising the cull.

Photographs purportedly showing Mr Paterson's Shropshire home have also been published. Activists claimed that the information on ministers was leaked by "someone…high up in the civil service".

Mr Paterson is understood to be furious that his office telephone number, along with other details, were made public last week.

The website first published the information on the day he assumed office and activists bombarded his department with prank telephone calls, playing a viral video known as the "Badger, Badger song" down the phone.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) sought an injunction against the website and personal details were removed from the site after Government lawyers contacted activists.

However, "mirror" websites have since been set up outside of UK servers, including one which has gone further by publishing what is believed to be Mr Paterson's home address.

A Defra spokesman said: "We respect the right of people who disagree with the government's policy on badger culling to make their views known through legitimate channels such as through the courts, responding to consultations and by writing to ministers. However, any organised campaign of intimidation of public figures, their families and their employees is unacceptable."

The Badger Trust, who earlier this week lost an appeal court battle against the cull, called on the website to stop their campaign of publishing addresses. "We have absolutely nothing to do with illegal action," said their spokesman, Jack Reedy. "People have a right to make points and demonstrate, but only within the law."

The Coalition of Badger Action Groups, which includes former hunt saboteurs and activists who were involved in the campaign against the animal testing facility Huntingdon Life Sciences, are planning "night patrols" during the cull to stop licensed shooters from killing badgers.

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