Posters demanding the “secrets” of any farmers involved in the badger cull have been condemned as intimidatory by the National Farmers Union.
The Department for Food Environment and Rural Affairs has warned that objectors to the cull should use legitimate methods to get their message across. “Any organised campaign of intimidation is unacceptable,” a spokesman said.
Posters have appeared in the Taunton area, in the style of the Ghostbusters film, with the tag line Cullbusters and asking the public to call or text a telephone number linked to Stop The Cull, the coalition of animal welfare organisations.
They call on the public to ring or text the line if they see anything strange. Callers are asked to leave the farmer’s name, the farm name and the “gory details”.
Stop The Cull has denied printing the posters but has said it is keen to use information to help it in its attempts to sabotage surveys of badger numbers. It said it had no intention of publishing details of farmers’ lives.
A message on the Stop The Cull website said: “Looks like someone has been putting up posters in Taunton over the weekend. On Saturday morning we received our first tip-off.
"This intel was immediately passed on to one of our field teams and from that a number of new hair DNA traps have been located.
"These hair traps are put out by the Food and Environment Research Agency who are trying to work out the population of badgers, the problem for FERA is that other people know what they are doing and are removing the badger hairs. This invalidates the entire study, or at the very least will vastly reduce the number of badgers believed to be in the zone.”
The studies are carried out by collecting the hairs left by badgers on wires specially laid above badger pathways. DNA testing shows whether the hairs are from different individuals.
A Defra spokesman said: “Badger populations are estimated using data from published literature, scientific sources, applicants assessments of number of setts, and surveying and monitoring of sites. All work is on schedule.”
Ian Johnson, South West NFU spokesman, said the posters are “intimidatory” and added: “It is a totally disingenuous attempt to disrupt a perfectly legitimate, strictly controlled cull.”