FARMING LEADERS have called for the whole of the supply chain to stand together in the face of a backlash from animal rights campaigners over the badger culls.
It comes after high street coffee chain Caffè Nero announced that it will not use milk from farms in the Gloucestershire and Somerset badger cull areas following “threats” against its staff by activists.
The culls are being carried out to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis in endemic areas of the South West. There are fears the disease will spread to the North and other parts of the country without effective disease control measures.
Tens of thousands of cattle have already been slaughtered after becoming infected.
A statement released by Caffè Nero this week read: “There has been a lot of controversy and strong emotion surrounding the culling of badgers. To be clear, Caffè Nero is not for or against this practice. That is a matter for the government and those who have strong views on the policy. We sell coffee.
“We are at a loss as to why our stores have been the target of protestors when we are not part of the debate. In fact 98 per cent of our milk supply came from outside the affected areas.
“In response to serious and credible threats against our team members, we decided that the welfare of our people and our customers came first and have taken a pragmatic decision on our milk sourcing policies. Any threats to our people or customers is totally unacceptable and we have asked the authorities for support and assistance against these threats of violence and disruption.
“Caffè Nero has long standing relationships with farmers throughout the UK. We will continue to be supportive of the NFU and are working with them to find a suitable outcome for all parties. However as a first priority we must guarantee the safety of our people and customers.”
In a statement on Thursday, the NFU said: “It is a shame that Caffé Nero felt it had to bow to this type pressure but it again highlights the kind of tactics being used by those who want to stop the cull. We will work with Caffé Nero to see that their sourcing policies support British farming.
“It is important for the whole of the supply chain to stand together on the issue of TB eradication to safeguard the future of our beef and dairy sectors. We need to remember that at the heart of this issue we are talking about controlling bovine TB – a disease which is responsible for the slaughter of 32,00 cattle in Great Britain last year. It is spreading in cattle and in badgers and will continue to spread if left uncontrolled.
“It is wholly unacceptable for a small group of protestors to intimidate and threaten retailers in this way.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Our strategy for tackling bovine TB is based on advice from the Chief Veterinary Officer about the best way to control this harmful disease which threatens the future of our dairy and beef industries. We will continue to work closely with the dairy industry and retailers to offer them all the support we can.”
Veterinarians criticise methods
The British Veterinary Association is at odds with the Government over the use of controlled shooting as part of the badger culls.
Defra Minister George Eustice has confirmed the cull pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire will be completed using both controlled shooting and cage trapping and shooting.
BVA president John Blackwell said this was disappointing “given that the first two years of culling failed to demonstrate conclusively that controlled shooting could be carried out effectively or humanely based on the criteria that were set”.