A High Court judge has granted the NFU and a number of other claimants an interim injunction to protect farmers in and around pilot badger cull areas from unlawful actions by opponents.
NFU members, staff and officeholders, along with farmers and individuals involved in culling operations, were given protection against a number of named defendants, as well as “persons unknown” under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Speaking after the judgment, NFU President Peter Kendall said: “Let’s be clear from the start - this has never been about preventing people from holding legitimate and legal protests.
“This injunction is about stopping those intent on totally unacceptable incidents of harassment and threats made against a number of farmers and landowners in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset by those opposed to the badger cull. For beef and dairy farmers dealing with TB on their farms, these badger culls are an essential part in the fight against this terrible disease.
“Opinion is divided, so, while we recognise that not everyone agrees with the Government’s TB eradication policy, and the need to cull badgers to start to reduce this disease in cattle, we do acknowledge their legitimate right to hold peaceful protests.
“What we cannot condone are the actions being used by extreme activists designed to harass, intimidate and threaten others.”
Last year, 38,000 cattle were slaughtered in Great Britain alone because of bovine TB.
DEFRA is currently consulting on a draft strategy for achieving an official Bovine Tuberculosis-Free status for England, meaning 99.9% of herds must have remained free from the chronic infectious disease for at least six consecutive years.
In refining what a better risk-based approach will look like, this splits the country into three geographical areas – high risk, edge area and low risk.
The North East currently falls in the latter category, meaning the key objective is to keep protecting the region from TB, immediately dealing with isolated outbreaks, should they occur.
An e-petition against badger culling has been gathering momentum, attracting over 250,000 names, and many people have peacefully registered the vehement opposition to tactic.
The RSPCA, for example, has sought to debunk what it calls the ‘myths’ surrounding the effectiveness of the ‘mindless’ cull.
Mr Kendall stressed the injunction did not prevent peaceful, legal protest, but said some “absolutely unacceptable” intimidation had also occurred.
“We have got to remember that at the heart of this are families,” he said.
“Some of these families have been subject to intimidation, at times involving very small children, with alarms set off during the night.
“They’ve been spied on, they’ve been filmed and they have been threatened with private information released on a regular basis.
“They’ve had abusive phone calls through the night, they’ve had threatening letters and messages, and they have had strangers verbally abuse them at their own homes.”
He added that he hoped the injunction would halt the view among some groups that “threats of violence and a campaign of harassment and intimidation are acceptable ways to make your voice heard in a democratic society”.
“The families who have been targeted will be grateful for the court’s decision,” Mr Kendall said.
“And I ask for the public to continue to back British farming during this difficult time.”
The injunction is available to view in full at www.nfuonline.com