The war of words between farmers and animal rights groups over the controversial badger cull policy has continued after the RSPCA called for farmers who permitted culling on their ground to be named and shamed.
The suggestion, broadcast during a BBC Panorama programme on the subject, was made by RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant at a public meeting in Gloucestershire, where a pilot of the cull was to be carried out.
His words have drawn strong criticism from the National Farmers Union, with its director of policy Martin Haworth saying Mr Grant was in effect “inciting a campaign of fear and intimidation”.
Mr Haworth said the RSPCA had “overstepped the mark and in doing so confirmed our worst fears that the RSPCA is no longer a responsible organisation with animal welfare at its core”.
“Mr Grant has actively encouraged people to identify farmers and those carrying out the badger cull pilots next year without a thought for their safety, their family’s safety or the security of their homes,” he said.
“This is tantamount to inciting a campaign of fear and intimidation which I find wholly unacceptable and completely irresponsible.
“I am extremely disappointed with the RPSCA’s approach, as expressed by its chief executive, to tackling what is one of the most serious issues affecting our beef and dairy herds today.”
Mr Grant was filmed in the BBC programme saying to those assembled: “Badgers have no vote, they have no voice. We are not going to stand by and witness the abysmal slaughter of these creatures for no tangible, discernible purpose whatsoever.
“The spotlight of attention will be turned on those marksmen and on those who give permission for this cull to take place. They will be named and we will decide as citizens of this country whether they will be shamed.”
He later denied his intention was to bring about the “personal intimidation of farmers”.
Mr Grant has riled farmers before, telling supporters in September they should boycott milk from the cull areas, words that were widely condemned due to the ongoing crisis in the dairy sector.
The badger cull has been suspended in recent weeks by the Government, with bad weather and shortening days being blamed.
In a statement to the Yorkshire Post the RSPCA said: “Gavin Grant and the RSPCA have consistently, repeatedly and unreservedly condemned harassment, intimidation or threats of violence to or by anyone involved in the bovine TB debate. Those agreeing with us in opposing the pilot badger culls – which include leading scientists and the vast majority of the public – should do so by lawful and peaceful means only.
“We are eager to work constructively with farmers, land owners, scientific experts, the Government and the European Commission to tackle bovine TB in cattle and wildlife through vaccination and enhanced biosecurity.
“It is sad the NFU preference is to continue last summer’s ‘war of words’ rather than joining in with this more constructive approach.”