Badger activists to set up anti-cull protest camps
Animal rights activists have threatened to create protest camps on Crown Estate land following Natural England's controversial decision to authorise a second badger cull in West Somerset.
Protesters warned the camps would be similar to the infamous Newbury bypass camps against the A34, which carried on for several weeks in 1996.
Natural England has granted a licence for an area in West Somerset, thought to include Dunster Estate, owned by the Crown.
A spokesman for Stop the Cull, which is organising direct action against the killings, told the Daily Telegraph that a protest camp would be set up on the 9,400-acre estate that includes a number of historic properties.
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He claimed the Crown Estate was being targeted because it was easier to evict people from private land. He also said protesters wanted to put pressure on a "large corporation" rather than singling out "small dairy farmers". Protesters have even threatened to use tunnelling techniques in order to stop the cull.
"As soon as the cull starts we are going to set up a protest camp on the Crown Estate. They can come and evict us but it will be very costly. It will be like the Newbury bypass protests," the spokesman said.
A spokesman for the Badger Trust said the organisation remained sympathetic towards any action carried out "within the law". But he added: "We do not condone any breaking of the law, including trespass."
A spokesman for the Crown Estate said farmers have been given the go-ahead to take part in the cull.
"The Crown Estate recognises that bovine TB is a major problem for farmers, including our tenants, and is cooperating with Natural England to allow access to our land for the pilot schemes, where required," he said.
The RSPCA has said it is "devastated" that a second licence has been granted for the pilot badger cull in Somerset and is calling on Defra to reverse the decision.
Chief executive Gavin Grant said: "We are horrified that the UK Government in England is ploughing on with plans to kill badgers despite the clear public feeling against it."
"Direct action" animal rights groups say they will make noise to warn the badgers to stay underground.
The controversial cull is part of the Government's programme to eliminate the spread of bovine tuberculosis. It will take place over a six-week period, which will have to be completed before the New Year, when the badger breeding season begins.
Natural England said the new licence will allow farmers to kill 70% of badgers in the area of West Somerset over four years.
A high-profile petition against the culls has attracted over 147,000 signatures.