Recent weeks have seen animal rights activists enjoy widespread media attention attacking what they say is a lack of science to support the view that killing badgers will help prevent the spread of the deadly disease which has led to thousands of cattle being slaughtered in recent years and has cost the rural economy millions of pounds.
In response, the National Farmers Union is asking farmers who have lost cattle to the disease to share their experiences on social networking websites, as well as contacting their local MP on the issue. Its president Peter Kendall said the NFU was standing firm behind the cull despite what it called “increased intimidation and harassment from animal rights activists”.
He said: “I want to get one thing clear for those who think the tactics of harassment and intimidation from animal rights activists are winning the day on the serious issue of how we deal with TB in this country.
“Farmers remain committed to helping government deliver on its TB eradication programme that will reduce TB in both cattle and badgers. No-one wants to cull badgers but we simply can’t go on while TB increases its vice-like grip on our family farms.”
Mr Kendall pointed out that the number of cows culled due to TB had risen from 6,000 in 1998 to 34,000 last year and said that “every single one of those cows was culled to prevent them passing the disease on”. He added: “It is a fact that TB exists in wildlife and no amount of culling of cattle will ever control this disease while there are still badgers spreading it further.”
Mr Kendall is also pursuing a complaint against the BBC over what he perceives to be an unbalanced report of the issue on Newsnight. Last night the BBC told the Yorkshire Post that the NFU complaint was so far the only one it had received, with a spokesman saying: “BBC News has a duty to explain and explore all angles of a story regardless of the controversy involved.
“This story is no different. We have received the NFU’s complaint and will respond directly regarding their concerns.”
So far TB has only been detected in a handful of cattle in Yorkshire with the disease confined to the south and west of the country, where it has been rampant in some areas.
Mr Kendall also hit out at anti-cull protesters, some of whom he accused of “intimidating and harassing people who are simply trying to run their businesses and look after their families”.
He said the anti-cull campaign was “based on misinformation, scaremongering and bullying with no scientific basis”.
Tewkesbury Borough Council in Gloucestershire, close to an area where a badger cull is set to go ahead, said yesterday it would not support culling on its land with councillors rejecting a motion backing the scheme.
The cull policy was introduced by the coalition Government and follows two public consultations. It has also been upheld after challenges in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Last night the Badger Trust said the plans for a cull were “unworkable, unscientific and could lead to an increase in bovine TB”.