With the culling of badgers set to be extended to Dorset farmers are braced for further confrontations with animal rights activists
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Farmers have pledged to stand up to intimidation from animal rights extremists who are threatening a major campaign of disorder to sabotage the planned extension of the controversial badger cull.
Militant groups say plans to extend the cull from Somerset and Gloucestershire into Dorset will make it easier for them to mobilise hundreds of activists from across south east England to confront farmers and contractors who carry out the shooting and trapping of badgers.
The threat comes as farmers urged the Government to extend the cull as a matter of urgency in a bid to tackle the continuing spread of bovine tuberculosis from badgers to dairy cattle herds in south west England.
Farmers in Dorset have applied to Natural England for the cull to be extended to their country to tackle what they describe as a “desperate situation”. It is understood that farmers in Devon and Cornwall have also applied for culling licences.
More than 15,000 cattle were slaughtered because of bovine TB across the South West last year and at the same time more than 2,200 herds that had previously been clear of the disease were affected by it.
Speculation is growing that Natural England could give permission for culling could start in Dorset as soon as the end of the summer or start of autumn, though it says it will not “give a running commentary” on culling licence applications.
However, David Cameron made it clear only last month that the Government regards culling as “absolutely the right thing to do” and the new cull is expected to be given the go-ahead.
Trevor Cligg, the chairman of the National Farmers Union in Dorset, said: “Without expanding the cull into Dorset and all the other areas where bTB is endemic we are not going to beat this disease. We can take all the cattle control – and we should – and vaccination has a part to play but in itself it won’t be enough.”