The NFU has branded a Twitter campaign urging supermarkets to boycott milk sourced from farmers involved in the badger cull as “crazy and totally unfair”.
The Bristol Animal Rights Collective (BARC), a Bristol-based animal liberation group, has sent tweets to major supermarkets calling on them not to buy milk from farmers who will take part in the badger cull this summer.
“Please don’t source milk from badger cull farms. I’m planning to boycott. Please r.t (retweet),” said the Twitter message, which was sent directly to Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, ASDA, Marks & Spencer, Lidl and Aldi.
In response to the request, Tesco Customer Care (@UKTesco) tweeted: “We are not for or against the culling trial; we believe it is for farmers to decide whether they take part.”
In reply, BARC tweeted: “What a rubbish cop out – pathetic! We will be demonstrating against you in Bristol!”
BARC went further, saying: “Badger blood will be on your hands if you source milk from farms that are part of the cull. Your excuses are beneath contempt.”
Tesco said in a later tweet that it was “committed to supporting British farmers and will retain our relationships with those who make the decision to participate”.
Waitrose tweeted: “As a government initiative, we feel that participation should be left entirely to the discretion of farmers themselves.”
ADSA, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi have not responded to BARC’s Twitter request.
The NFU has been seeking assurances from supermarkets that they will continue to sell dairy products sourced from farmers in the West Country taking part in the pilot culls.
Gloucestershire dairy farmer and NFU TB spokesman Jan Rowe described BARC’s request as a “crazy manoeuvre” that was “totally unfair” on farmers participating in the cull.
“We are trying to help and control a serious disease (bovine TB) which has far more importance for food safety in the long run,” he said.
“These farmers will be doing something that is entirely legal. It will be done humanely under very tight controls and a strict licensing application signed by DEFRA. The pilot culls will test whether this form of culling works.”
Mr Rowe added: “This type of action is totally unfair on the farmers involved and it is a ludicrous way of trying to make a protest.”
Speaking at the NFU Conference last week, DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson said the government was committed to starting the two badger cull pilots this summer, as part of DEFRA’s Bovine TB Eradication Programme for England.