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Badger cull balaclava ban proposed by Gloucestershire police commissioner

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 17, 2014

Martin Surl has proposed that balaclavas be banned following their use by protesters and shooters during the badger cull, which residents said was intimidating

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A police chief has called for the wearing of balaclavas to be restricted in the countryside after they were worn both by protesters and marksmen during the South West badger culls.

Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl is to write to Home Secretary Theresa May to urge for limits to the headgear, as is the case with crash helmets.

Pilot culls took place in Gloucestershire and Somerset, and a stand-by was set up in Dorset. However, ministers decided not to expand the plan to tackle bovine TB this year after an independent report questioned the culls' humaneness and effectiveness.

Making the announcement, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson hit out at "extreme" anti-cull protesters guilty of a "disgraceful amount of intimidation".

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Mr Surl has been told by the police they received claims of harassment that they were unable to pursue because the alleged perpetrators could not be identified.

He added: "I received many complaints from families who had nothing to do with the cull who were frightened to leave their homes or go out after dark in case they were confronted by people whose faces were covered.

"It was one of the nastier elements of the cull. The police adopted a polite approach so as not to inflame the situation and it's a pity those who were asked to take off their masks ignored not only the request but also the effect they were having on innocent people and communities."

He went on: "There are restrictions on people walking into a bank or filling station wearing a crash helmet, maybe there should be something similar in the countryside."

Drew Pratten, from the Stop the Cull protest group, said the police had to be fair to both protesters and marksmen.

"We weren't using them to commit crime. We were using them to keep our identity hidden from the operators, as they were as well.It was for that same reason. We will be out again this year wearing balaclavas."

National Farmers' Union deputy president Minette Batters said: "Farmers and landowners in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset were subjected to threats, harassment and intimidation – they were spied on, filmed, received abusive letters, threatening phone calls through the night, and were verbally abused by strangers at their own homes.

"Contractors experienced high levels of harassment and intimidation. Understandably, many did not want their names to become known. Even with promises of anonymity, many didn't feel confident their names wouldn't become public and they wouldn't face further intimidation."

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  • blackwhite1  |  May 19 2014, 6:46PM

    Men with guns intimidated by ordinary unarmed people who just want to save their wildlife from being killed? How terribly frightening for them! And how strange that they don't want anybody to know what they're doing .. almost as if they know that slaughtering our treasured (by some) indigenous badgers is pointless and just plain WRONG (but that would presuppose that these government & NFU-sponsored mercenaries do actually have consciences) ...

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  • Barri  |  May 18 2014, 3:03PM

    Thugs with guns murdering innocent Badgers is clearly intimidating. The Police protecting and co-operating with these thugs is disgusting and lawless. Who are these Fashion Police that will dictate what clothes to wear ?

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  • 26it073  |  May 17 2014, 3:17PM

    I fully agree that there should be legally enforceable rules and regulation as to what you wear in the countryside. To the suggestion,"There are restrictions on people walking into a bank or filling station wearing a crash helmet, maybe there should be something similar in the countryside."I suggest we add trainers, high-heeled shoes, fancy wellies and brightly coloured clothing. There is something unsettling about people dressed inappropriately in the country side.

  • Clued-Up  |  May 17 2014, 11:39AM

    It's a well-known ploy to set up a distraction when there's an issue you want to hide. This is what's happening here, I think. There've been a series of articles about shooters and protesters wearing face-coverings - and very little discussion of the many badger cull policing issues which are far more important. The leaked internal police review covering the Avon & Somerset Police largely supported protesters' complaints that the police were biased towards the cullers and failed to properly investigate incidents where protesters said they'd been the victims of criminal behaviour. The complaints the Gloucestershire protesters made are also about the police's failure to uphold the law impartially and to investigate complaints properly. The Gloucestershire PCC webcast provided some supporting evidence for protesters' complaints, to my mind. There were failings of the police communications and management systems that resulted in individuals being harassed without cause. What we now need is a good, thorough review of the badger cull policing, covering the 11 police services involved. I would hope PCC Surl would add his support to this request. Policing needs to be fair and competent - many of us think the badger cull policing wasn't either.

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  • groundnut  |  May 17 2014, 11:21AM

    It is perhaps reasonable to ask why this subject of the protest groups has arisen, and why it has and continues to generate an increasing amount of controversy and opposition. Is it because of the great unwashed, the benefit scroungers tramping through the Countryside at night to disrupt a legal activity ??. Because one minute the Badger is a protected species and a part of the indigenous wildlife of the UK. The next it is again a pest, the sole source of the spread of Bovine TB, and needs to be killed and persecuted. By whatever means is effective. The Science behind this Countryside scenario is non-existent. And gets more so as the killing of Badgers healthy, young or old becomes as labelled by Independent Experts "Inhumane" and "ineffective" So the Ministry responsible moves backwards to put Gassing back on the agenda. And yet we hear that England is the only part of the UK engaged in such controversial moves. The remainder of the UK has moved forward to explore and use the available Science, with good effect. But more of Middle England now understand and see that the money squandered on killing and controversy, could have more beneficially have been spent on developing Effective cattle testing and Vaccines. But No, more of the same to come, followed by Gassing trials. The UK Public are not mad, they have indicated in increasing Numbers, that the minority now driving further inhumane Killing will clearly enlist protest. Do not NFU continue blaming others for the situation that continues to exist. Owen Paterson, DEFRA, Natural England (an Owen Paterson quango) have clearly set out their stall. They have continued blinkered down this same road. Is this prejudice against science or a deaf ear to Public Opinion, a Desire to continue with the controversy or just a desire to kill Badgers? Either way the science available and the evidence against such a path, will inevitably provoke reasoned and legal protest. Balaclavas or otherwise. http://tinyurl.com/kby8yeb

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