8:10am Saturday 24th August 2013
A High Court judge has granted an interim injunction restricting protest at and around the sites of proposed badger culls, where shooting is expected to start on Monday.
The National Farmers Union and other claimants had sought the injunction to protect farmers in the pilot cull areas from unlawful actions by those opposed to the badger cull.
But the judge amended the terms of the injunction so as not to impose a "catch all" condition, sought by the NFU, which would have made it apply to "persons unknown." Instead, the injunction applies only to named individuals.
Recently, an e-petition opposing the planned badger cull programme which was signed and promoted by various organisations, broke the record for the largest number of signatories ever to sign a government petition.
Humane Society International/UK welcomed the High Court decision to limit the injunction sought by the National Farmers' Union so that the right to lawful protest against the badger cull is upheld.
The Judge said that there was a fundamental right to protest in this country and that the injunction must not go too far. The Judge said "for acts not on the face of it unlawful I have to strike a balance between lawful business activity and the right to protest."
The scope of the injunction was successfully challenged by the Badger Trust.
Mark Jones, Executive Director of Humane Society International/UK, said: "We are delighted and much relieved that the High Court recognised that the NFU's injunction went far beyond what was reasonable to deal with the potential activities of a few named individuals. The judge has upheld the democratic right of ordinary law-abiding citizens to protest against this wholly unjustified slaughter of badgers.
"This is a deeply misguided and unpopular badger cull opposed by a huge cross-section of society including vets, scientists, many farmers, local citizens, conservationists, disease experts, charities, and very large numbers of members of the public. Our protest may be unwelcome and uncomfortable for the NFU, but our fundamental right to do so has been safeguarded. We vow to carry on campaigning lawfully for these poor badgers who are about to die in Cameron's cull."
The injunction will prevent those opposed to the cull from carrying out a number of unlawful acts against farmers and landowners. Speaking after the judgment, NFU President Peter Kendall welcomed the decision: “Let’s be clear from the start, this has never been about preventing people from holding legitimate and legal protests. This injunction is about stopping those intent on totally unacceptable incidents of harassment and threats made against a number of farmers and landowners in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset by those opposed to the badger cull.
“For beef and dairy farmers dealing with TB on their farms, these badger culls are an essential part in the fight against this terrible disease. Opinion is divided, so, while we recognise that not everyone agrees with the government’s TB eradication policy, and the need to cull badgers to start to reduce this disease in cattle, we do acknowledge their legitimate right to hold peaceful protests. What we cannot condone are the actions being used by extreme activists designed to harass, intimidate and threaten others.
“We have got to remember that at the heart of this are families. Families with children, grandchildren; families trying to get on with their lives. It is absolutely unacceptable to us that any of these law-abiding people should be subjected to such a sustained campaign of intimidation. As the court heard, these are parents with young children, these are grandparents, these are people like you and I. Some of these families have been subject to intimidation, at times involving very small children, with alarms set off during the night, they’ve been spied on, they’ve been filmed and they have been threatened with private information released on a regular basis. They’ve had abusive phone calls through the night, they’ve had threatening letters and messages, and they have had strangers verbally abuse them at their own homes.
“If it was your family, your children, your grandparents- imagine how you would feel.
“On top of this they are living and working on farms that are already battling to get on top of TB, a disease that saw 38,000 cattle slaughtered in Great Britain alone in 2012. I ask you to think about the kind of individuals who would want to intimidate these people.
“I want to be clear that this injunction prevents the kind of illegal action I’ve just described. It does not prevent peaceful legal protest. The NFU has always recognised the right to protest within the law. This injunction will have no impact on those people who have a viewpoint which they want to express lawfully.
“I hope that this injunction will mark an end to the feeling among some groups of people that threats of violence and a campaign of harassment and intimidation are acceptable ways to make your voice heard in a democratic society.
“The families who have been targeted will be grateful for the court’s decision today. And I ask for the public to continue to back British farming during this difficult time.”
Stamping out infection in areas where the disease is spreading, known as the 'edge' area, is expected to benefit farmers and livestock businesses by an estimated £27 million over 10 years by limiting the impact of bovine TB on their businesses, according to Farming Minister David Heath.
"Bovine TB is a highly infectious disease that is devastating our dairy and beef industry and continues to spread across England at an alarming rate. We must do everything we can to crack down on what is the biggest animal disease threat facing the nation.
"We are taking tough and decisive action on TB at the frontier of this disease to stop and then reverse the spread. The measures we are introducing this year will help protect vast areas of England from the scourge of TB and take a significant step towards our goal of eradicating TB within 25 years."
Analysis suggests that, if left unchecked, bTB could spread beyond the edge area to areas such as Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Merseyside and West Yorkshire by 2022.
The Country Land and Business Association gave its backing to government policy on bovine TB, saying a badger cull would be 'vital to prevent the needless slaughter of cattle.'
The Association is calling for MPs to vote against the motion "This House Believes that the Badger Cull Should Not Go Ahead" and to support a package of measures to stop the spread of bTB in England.
CLA President Harry Cotterell said: "The spread of bovine TB resulted in 28,000 cattle being slaughtered last year.
"This terrible disease is devastating rural communities and if we don't act now bTB will cost taxpayers £1billion over the next decade.
"Scientific evidence shows that a cull is necessary, as part of a package of measures, to help bring this disease under control."
Cotterell said that the current measures in place, including movement restrictions of infected herds and regular testing, have been unable to reduce the spread of the disease.
He added: "Other countries, such as New Zealand and Ireland have successfully reduced bTB infection using wildlife controls so we know it works."
National Beef Association National Director Chris Mallon said: "38,000 cattle lost per year, £100 million in costs per year, a major loss of food production and the destruction of many family businesses is the present and growing cost of TB to the UK."
But according to Professor Peter Atkins, from the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, a widespread badger cull will not solve the problem of tuberculosis in cattle.
It has been claimed that controlling badger numbers will reduce the spread of TB in cattle and trial culls are due to begin this weekend. But Professor Peter Atkins has investigated the spread of bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) and believes that rolling out this approach across the country would be simplistic.
Professor Atkins said: “Badgers almost certainly play a part in spreading the disease, but my conclusion is that their impact over the decades has been far less than suggested.
"Very carefully arranged culling may have a part to play alongside other measures in areas of particular prevalence such as southwest England and South Wales, but my research suggests that extending the policy elsewhere may neither be justified nor particularly effective. It certainly won’t be a panacea.
"Bovine TB has been around for several hundred years and appears to have become more prevalent here in the UK because of the intensive cattle breeding and farming from the 18th century onwards. It is an airborne infection generally, so if cattle were confined without much ventilation, the disease inevitably spreads. We think the peak of bTB probably was in the middle or late 19th century, with perhaps as much as 80 percent of cattle then infected in some counties."
"It is very probable that other animals did and do carry TB including badgers and deer, but cattle-to-cattle transfer is likely also to be an important factor.
"For example, only one out of nearly 400 badgers killed in road accidents in Cheshire over two decades tested for the disease turned out to be positive. This goes against received wisdom that some badger communities could have been infected for decades after the disease was cleared from cattle in 1960.
"If there was little bTB amongst wildlife in Cheshire and similar counties, then reinfection of cattle from this source is a lower risk than in, say, Gloucestershire. Extending the same type of cull beyond the southwest in future would therefore be a mistake."
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