Activists are planning noisy demonstrations in the countryside in a bid to disrupt the activities of trained marksmen carrying out the badger cull.
Protesters from the Stop the Cull will don high-visibility jackets and use megaphones, horns and bright lights to try and cause as much disruption as possible to shooters.
Speaking on a badger cull debate on BBC Radio 5 live on Tuesday (18 September), a Stop the Cull member known only as “Jay” said direct action would take two forms.
“The cull will involve free shooting and trapping, so where there are traps, they will dismantled,” he said.
“Where there is shooting from a distance, people will have high-vis jackets, megaphones and horns and torches in attempts to scare badgers away from bait points.”
“We will be out in the fields before and during the cull, stopping and making citizen’s arrests on marksmen/women when we can, filming, rescuing injured badgers and neutralising bait points when we find them,” read a statement, posted on the organisation’s website.
The Hunt Saboteurs Association has also announced it is assembling members to disrupt the cull in Gloucestershire.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has warned protesters they may face prosecution if they break the law while disrupting the activities of marksmen.
A police spokesman said: “We will be trying to ensure everyone is safe in the countryside and police officers will take action if any offences are committed.”
“The police are not responsible for undertaking the cull itself. The lead department for the cull is DEFRA and licences to undertake the actual culling are issued by Natural England. The role of the police service is to remain independent, working with those undertaking the cull to enable them to carry out what is a lawful activity and those who wish to exercise their human rights to oppose it through peaceful and lawful protest,” the spokesman said.
The cost of policing the cull was unknown at this stage, the spokesman added. “DEFRA are covering the reasonable costs incurred in delivering policing services specifically related to the badger cull. This means that Gloucestershire Police can continue to deliver its normal services unaffected by the resources it needs to supply the policing of the cull.”
On Monday (17 September), Natural England announced on its website it had issued a provisional licence for culling badgers in west Gloucestershire to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
“Application for a licence was made by a specifically formed company representing farming and land management interests covering 300sq km and more than 70% of the west Gloucestershire pilot area,” said the statement.
However, Natural England said culling could only begin once necessary funds are in place and the permitted number of badgers to be culled – and specific dates for badger control – are agreed.
The licence authorises the culling of badgers within the west Gloucestershire pilot area over a continuous six-week period each year over the next four years. However, no control can be carried out during close seasons.
Natural England said it was continuing to assess a culling licence for the second pilot area, west Somerset, which it hoped to issue “in the next few days”.
DEFRA remains confident the pilot badger culls will start next month. If they are successful, culling could be rolled out in up to 10 more areas in 2013.