Activists plan campaign against badger cull

Activists who helped stop Britain’s first super dairy have launched a campaign against government plans for a badger cull to combat bovine TB.

The campaign group 38 Degrees has launched a petition against the cull following a series of online polls and debates.

“Last week we voted to decide whether or not to launch a campaign to stop the government’s plan to kill badgers,” wrote campaigner Marie Campbell on the 38 Degrees blog.

“The results are in – 87% of respondents answered ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Should we work together to stop government plans to kill badgers?'”

The move is significant. Although little known among the farming community, 38 Degrees boasts 800,000 supporters and some notable successes.

It helped scupper plans for Britain’s first super dairy at Nocton, Lincolnshire, and forced the government to abandon plans to sell off public forests.

The campaign against the Nocton Dairies saw 38 Degrees name and shame local farmers. But the group said it wouldn’t necessarily adopt a similar approach if it decided to campaign against the badger cull. Either way, critics have accused 38 Degrees of intimidating its opponents.

“You have to ask whether naming and shaming is a legitimate tactic,” said one farm industry figure, who asked not to be named.

Thousands of activists have taken to the internet to support a series of online campaigns in the week since DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman unveiled proposals for two pilot culls in TB hotspot areas next summer.

More than 20,000 people have now signed a League Against Cruel Sports petition against the cull. It hopes to secure enough signatures to secure a parliamentary debate on the issue.

“Authorising a cull would create a new bloodsport by licencing the shooting of badgers for gun-toting volunteers,” says the petition. “We are calling for a badger vaccination programme instead of a cull.”

The RSPCA has also condemned the cull proposals. It has called on its supporters to circulate an open letter to Mrs Spelman accusing her of proceeding with a cull despite 40,000 objections from RSPCA supporters.

Who are 38 Degrees?

Co-founded by millionaire Gordon Roddick – a graduate of the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester – the 38 Degrees group claims to have 800,000 members.

Husband of the late Anita Roddick, with whom he founded the Body Shop, Mr Roddick chairs the 38 Degrees board. Named after the angle at which an avalanche ocurrs, the group is run from a small office in east London.

Members have been debating the merits of a badger cull for more than a week. More than 200 responses have been posted on the 38 Degrees website. Activists have also been exchanging views on the group’s Facebook page.

“Culling is not the way,” posted member Paula Carrier. “It is proven not to work, causes incredible suffering to the animals and is a knee-jerk reaction from the government. “Inoculation is the way, not senseless slaughter.”

But another member, Vanessa Garrett, wrote: “Why do so many people care about badgers being culled but don’t care a jot about the number of cattle being culled?”

Recent high profile and successful campaigns by 38 Degrees include one against plans for Britain’s first super dairy by Nocton Dairies and another against the government’s planned forestry sell-off.

More than 60,000 people signed a Stop the Factory Farm petition against the 3,770-cow dairy herd proposed for rural Lincolnshire. The planning application was withdrawn earlier this year after following Environment Agency objections.

Similarly, more than 500,000 38 Degrees members signed up to a Save Our Forests petition. The campaign helped force DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman to abandon government plans to sell off publicly-owned woodlands.