Badger cull protests turn to conflict

The Welsh Assembly Government said that three arrests had been made after contractors working on farmland near Newport, Pembrokeshire, had been subjected to “harassment and intimidation” by protesters opposed to the cull.

The contractors wore masks and balaclavas to protect their identity as protesters videoed them arriving to carry out survey work. But assembly staff, who were with the contractors, were filmed and later found that their images had been posted on the internet.

An assembly government statement branded the behaviour unacceptable.

“It included abusive language, harassing and trying to film Welsh Assembly Government staff and contractors, while following them around all day.

“Our contractors felt personally intimidated, which is why they tried to conceal their identity. This has not happened before and we will continue to try our best to work in a transparent manner in future.

“We have continued to engage with people in the area, including meeting some of the individuals concerned. We are very disappointed that a tiny minority has decided to engage in illegal activity.

All but 5% of setts in the cull zone had been surveyed before the protests began.

“Our main aim is to lawfully carry out this work to identify where badger setts are in the area,” an assembly government official told Farmers Weekly.

The official praised farmers who had signed up to a project aimed at improving biosecurity.

“As part of the comprehensive approach we have adopted, increased cattle controls in the area came into force on 1 May and we have had a 100% take up from cattle farmers in the project,” he said.

Reassurances have been given to farmers and others living in the community that their safety and security is paramount through “a memorandum of understanding” with Dyfed Powys Police.

The official denied that the cull, which was expected to start at the beginning of May, had been delayed by the protests.

“It is our intention to begin to remove badgers from the intensive action pilot area in west Wales as soon as preparations are complete,” the official said.