Gloucestershire badger cull protestors to complain after claims of being 'shot' at
PROTESTORS against a badger cull in Gloucestershire were left shocked after they said marksmen fired on them.
Campaigners have been out on various patrols around the cull zones in the county overnight to try and stop the cull.
The cull started more than three weeks ago to test the effectiveness of a cull to curb bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
Marksmen from private organisations are involved in the shoot, rather than operators from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
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Police officers were called out to Tibberton around 12.30am on Tuesday after reports by campaigners they were being shot at by badger cull operators.
After an investigation, Gloucestershire Police found out that fireworks were set off by the marksmen.
A spokesman for the police said: “Over the course of September 17, Gloucestershire Police has established that fireworks were set off by the cull operators.
“There was no firearms operation taking place in that area at that time.”
Terry Howard, from We are Change Gloucestershire, has been out every night and witnessed the situation.
He said: “I was out that night at Tiberton and saw the fire works which was very strange.
“Someone had made a 999 call saying they were being shot at, although the police took a while to respond.
“It all kicked off a little bit. Some people said they could hear a few shots fired, about four.
“As with regards to the fire works, I can only speculate.
“I don’t think they are used to lure badgers, because they will be really scared by the noise and light.
“I think it’s a diversion tactic to get protestors away from the badger setts, because people might be drawn to the site of the fireworks.
“I’m not sure about the numbers, but I think Defra and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) have underestimated the protestors. They do not have enough people on the ground, and the cull has failed spectacularly.”
A spokesman for the NFU insisted the fire works were not set off by the shooters, and they prefer to work “quietly and safely”.
A spokesman for Defra said: “The culls are being carried out by private companies, licensed by Natural England.”
Another campaign group, Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) is asking police officers to better protect its wounded badger patrols as they look for the injured animals.
Keeping to public footpaths, a spokesman for the group said they have faced "increasing intimidation and a lack of balanced response from the police".
GABS spokesperson Nick Berry said: “The incident on Monday night was horrendous for our patrollers.
"It was either a deliberate attempt to harass law-abiding individuals or a botched attempt at culling badgers which put people’s lives at risk.
"We have been very disappointed that the police have refused to take the matter further and so we are making a formal complaint as well as taking advice as to whether or not the cull operators are in breach of their culling licence agreement.
"We have asked the Police and Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl, to ensure that the police take an even-handed approach because at the moment this does not seem to be the case.”
A spokesman for the police said: "Gloucestershire Constabulary have, and will, continue to facilitate peaceful legal protest and if any protestors would like to speak to us there are two dedicated liaison officers available each night.
"The liaison officers are trained and selected to undertake the role and are deployed specifically to talk to people or groups of protestors about their concerns and ensure everyone understands what the police are doing and why. Further details about how to do this are on our website.
"Our response to the cull - Operation Themis - is aimed at keeping all our communities safe and feeling safe, dealing with any incidents of crime and public disorder and facilitating people's rights to protest. Our role is operationally independent, impartial, even-handed and fair to everyone whatever their views, interest or involvement in the pilot scheme."