Few issues divide the West Country as acutely as the badger cul. Here, Ama Menec, chairman of the Totnes Badger Vaccination Action Group, explains why she is leading the Great Badger Trail on its march to London.
The Great Badger Trail is a ten-day sponsored walk from Gloucester to London organised by anti-badger cull protesters.
We start at noon tomorrow and will walk 112 miles, from the heart of the cull zone to the doors of Westminster.
The aim is to continue to raise awareness of the plight of the badgers in the light of the Government's intention to return to Gloucester and Somerset to cull the animals as part of their now blighted policy to reduce TB in cattle.
The marchers are determined, organised, and supported every step of the way by the ever-increasing tide of the British public, major organisations, such as Animal Aid. Team Badger, Lush, The Badger Trust, and others who object to this flagrant attack on a protected species despite the scientific evidence against it.
The walk is organised by Julie Buxton, wildlife campaigner, and I will lead it. They will raise funds along the route for the Stop the Cull fight, raise public awareness of alternative ways to tackle TB in cattle, promote the need for increased biosecurity on farms and hold demonstrations and other events as they go.
When we reach the Prime Minister's constituency of Witney on Saturday we will hold a demonstration on Witney Green, with guest speaker Peter Martin from Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting.
The march will finish on May 31 with a march from Hyde Park at 1pm, to a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament, at Old Palace Yard, at 2pm.
The event is timed to finish the day before the cull licences are due to start again on June 1.
The idea of a massive march from Gloucester to London had me jumping around the room with glee. The general public think the cull is all over but we know it's not.
We are a small army but as we move across the country we will grow and grow. We will hold workshops, badger ecology talks, hand out my leaflet on '20 ways to combat TB in cattle' and we will continue to shout 'Save the Badger' until the government listens and stops this cull.
Devon is leading the way on this, (hopefully) once in a lifetime's event, an Aldermaston style march from Gloucester to Westminster, protesting at the continuing badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire this year and the continuing experiments by Defra into gassing badgers.
I've become the walk leader as I was the first to say I'd do the full ten days. Given how unfit I was at the time, it was a bit of a surprise, but one I was willing to take on.
Nick White from North Devon will be doing the whole ten days on his mobility scooter as he has Parkinson's and arthritis, and he'll be bringing his two dogs with him too.
I am doing this march for three reasons.
Firstly, to raise awareness with the British public along the route, of the continuing badger culls.
The independent report recently released on the badger culls say that last year's pilot culls failed on all of it's three criteria. It wasn't affordable, costing £10 million of tax payers money, it wasn't humane with up to one fifth of all badgers taking more than five minutes to die, and it wasn't effective, having failed to meet the target number, and there being no reduction in bovine TB in cattle either.
As a result, most people think it's all over, but don't realise Owen Paterson's response to this report is to continue exploring methods of killing a protected species in Somerset and Gloucestershire this year, and to exclude the independent observers from here on because he doesn't like what they report.
Defra have also now acknowledged they are continuing research into the gassing of badgers, and recently the Welsh government have reported an up to 48 per cent decrease in bovine TB in cattle during the last year thanks to their increased biosecurity and cattle movement restrictions, with no badgers killed at all.
The second reason is to fund raise to stop this year's badger culls, to help to get people from all over the country to Somerset and Gloucestershire this year as we did last year, but with better equipment to help us. Every walker will be sponsored.
The third reason is that this year I want to be far fitter than I was last year when out in the fields of West Somerset and West Gloucestershire. Being nearly 50, menopausal, not at all fit and having fibromyalgia, this will be a huge challenge for me but one I am willing to embrace, and having trained for the last seven weeks I am now up for a mid-life challenge.