Badger cull campaigners fear a countryside free-for-all
ALLOWING an illegal van driver to transport dead badgers away from the cull zone is the latest example of a "free-for-all" developing in the countryside, anti-cull campaigners claim.
A 27-year-old man from Altrincham has been reported for summons to court for driving without a licence after a crash in Worcester Street last month.
Early on Sunday, September 29, a Volkswagen Transporter van crashed into a bus stop. The driver was taken to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital with fractured ribs and cuts.
It is understood the van was on its way back from an unnamed part of the badger cull zone in Gloucestershire and that the badger carcasses were being transported for post-mortem examination and disposal.
Steve Tomlin is a key county campaigner against the cull, which is aimed at helping to cut incidents of tuberculosis in cattle.
"This arrest is just more evidence that this cull is half-baked and descending into a 'free-for-all'," he said.
"We were told that there should be three-man teams with a marksman at all times. We believe this is not the case and many are stretched.
"This van could have been taking infected badgers to an incinerator in Stroud or Gloucester.
"There is a strict code of practice for the cull, and allowing a van to be driven by someone without a licence is worrying.
"Resources for this operation are threadbare and this is another example of it becoming even more stretched with those involved taking dangerous short cuts.
"By extending the cull, the poor old badgers have had the goal posts moved. It sounds as if those organising the cull would not even know how to put on a football match."
Steve said although 10 per cent of carcasses recovered were likely to be sent for post mortem, it was an opportunity missed to test more bodies.
Police costs for the badger cull are also said to be spiralling out of control. Police and crime commissioner Martin Surl has said the figure is about £1million, twice the original estimate.
Campaign group Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS), is concerned an extension to the badger cull will lead to an increasing breakdown of law and order.
The group, whose members all agree to act peacefully and within the law, have reported a number of incidents to the police since the cull started five weeks ago.
Its wounded badger patrols were organised in response to a Defra report that many would be injured and not killed outright.
GABS spokesperson Jeanne Berry said: "While we all know that the badger cull is an emotive subject, there is a real risk that these incidents could cause a deep divide among communities in the county if the cull is extended.
"Over 500 people have signed up to the wounded badger patrols here because they are concerned about the cull."
Natural England is considering an application to extend the badger cull in Gloucestershire. It has already extended the licence in Somerset.
Defra and the NFU were approached for comment but refused to discuss operational matters.