An outspoken critic of the badger cull has apologised unreservedly for suggesting that the NFU and its president Peter Kendall were complicit in the illegal gassing of badgers.
Dominic Dyer (pictured), policy advisor at wildlife charity Care for the Wild, which opposes the badger cull, said on his Twitter account that “large networks of farmers illegally gassing badgers” were a “key factor in their population decline”.
He went on to suggest that DEFRA and the NFU are “turning a blind eye to illegal badger gassing”.
“They have been illegally gassed you know it. Owen Paterson & NFU know it too,” he tweeted.
In a television report by Sky News on 14 October, headlined “Badgers culled in illegal gassing trials”, Mr Dyer accused farmers of gassing badgers and “acting illegally with impunity”.
He said: “The farmers have been gassing badgers for many years, but the pace of that process has definitely increased with this culling operation.
“I think it has been a green light effectively from the government and the NFU to illegal action. And there is no case that we have seen coming to the courts in recent years.
“Farmers, I think, think they can act with impunity and are openly discussing this in farm meetings and are pushing the government now to adopt gassing as a policy, so we are very worried indeed.”
His comments were made after the government revised down its figures for the badger population from 2,081 to 1,015 in the west Somerset cull zone. The aim was to remove 70% of badgers in the area, but marksmen only removed 850, around 40%.
However, on Monday (21 October), Care for the Wild posted an apology to the NFU and Mr Kendall on its website on behalf of Mr Dyer.
The statement said: “In a series of press appearances and tweets on and around 14 October 2013, I raised my concerns about the unlawful gassing of badgers, following an investigation into this practice which was broadcast by Sky News.
“I remain concerned about unlawful gassing, but I accept that in raising my concerns, I made a number of unsubstantiated allegations about the knowledge and complicity of the National Farmers Union and its officeholder Peter Kendall in the gassing of badgers, for which I had no foundation.
“I withdraw those allegations, and I apologise unreservedly for making the comments in question.”
Earlier, the NFU said it had no evidence of farmers illegally gassing badgers.
A spokesman said: “The NFU does not condone any illegal activity that results in the killing of wildlife.
“Anyone with any evidence of the illegal killing of badgers or any other wildlife should report it to the police wildlife crime unit so it can be investigated.”