Charity watchdog tells Badger Trust to clarify stance

The Badger Trust has been told to distance itself from comments made by chief executive Dominic Dyer in the run-up to the general election.

Both the trust and Mr Dyer oppose badger culling as a method of controlling bovine tuberculosis in cattle.

See also: General Election 2015 – Politicians’ pledges for farming

Badger culling has divided political parties contesting the general election – the Conservative Party is in favour but the Labour Party says it opposes culling.

The Charity Commission told the trust to publish a statement on its website after Mr Dyer made a number of comments on social media.

The website statement said: “Any statements of a political nature made by Dominic Dyer on the badger cull policy between now and election day on the 7 May are made in a personal capacity only and do not reflect the views of the Badger Trust as a charity.”

The statement says the trust does not endorse any political party or its policies.

“As agreed with the Charity Commission, the Badger Trust will maintain political neutrality throughout the election period.”

The Charity Commission told the trust to publish the statement after it was contacted by Warwickshire farmer and former NFU vice-president Adam Quinney.

Commission rules say a charity cannot exist for a political purpose, which is any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party.

“If Mr Dyer is saying it in his own right, then it is fine. But when it says in your Twitter profile that you are CEO of the Badger Trust then it can lead to confusion.”
Adam Quinney, Warwickshire farmer

Mr Quinney said some of Mr Dyer’s social media posts appeared to favour the Labour Party, which has pledged to abandon badger culling if it forms the next government.

“There was confusion as to whether it was being said in a personal capacity or as chief executive of the Badger Trust,” Mr Quinney told Farmers Weekly.

“If Mr Dyer is saying it in his own right, then it is fine. But when it says in your Twitter profile that you are CEO of the Badger Trust then it can lead to confusion.

“I am glad the Charity Commission came back promptly and said ‘hang on a minute, you must play by the rules’.”

After the statement was published Mr Dyer took to social media to say it was the Badger Trust’s aim to protect badgers.

“No wonder government so keen use charity gagging laws during election,” Mr Dyer tweeted.

“To be fair, Charity Commission have been very good in terms of allowing me speak as an individual and chair hustings.”