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Death threats to Nick Brown over badger cull

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Guardian - Monday June 19, 2000

by Linus Gregoriadis

Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, has received death threats from animal rights activists in protest at the government's controversial badger culling trials.

The Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) has set up the cull to try to establish whether there is a link between badgers and tuberculosis in cattle.

A MAFF spokesman last night said that Mr Brown had been targeted along with the farmers and scientists involved with the experiments.

He said: "Mr Brown has received death threats from people on the fringes of the badger movement. We have heard reports that the children of farmers and members of MAFF staff engaged in the trial have been followed. We condemn this utterly."

The spokesman, who would not comment on the exact circumstances of the death threats, added: "Mr Brown has called on Jack Straw to ensure that mechanisms are brought in to make sure that MAFF staff and the farmers are given the full protection of the law."

MAFF said that Mr Brown was not the first agriculture minister to be targeted by animal rights activists. The spokesman said that Douglas Hogg also received death threats on the same issue while William Waldegrave received threats over live animal exports.

MAFF has estimated that 12,500 badgers will be culled at 10 sites over a five-year period. The trials started two years ago.

Animal rights groups, who say the experiments are unscientific and cruel, believe the money should be spent on developing a vaccine and promoting better animal husbandry. The National Federation of Badger Groups has protested that badgers have been killed during the breeding season, leaving their starving cubs to die.

The National Farmers' Union believes that 40,000 farmers will have been financially ruined by bovine TB by the time the experiments are completed. Many farmers believe there should be a full-scale badger cull.

Ben Gill, the NFU president, called on the activists who are responsible for the death threats to be treated under the law as terrorists. "I am concerned about the badger and also GM crop trials. These activists are in a different bracket and are guilty of clear, absolute terrorism."

Badger trials have so far been conducted on the Gloucester-Hereford border, Devon and Cornwall border, east Cornwall, east Hereford, north Wiltshire, west Cornwall and the Staffordshire-Derbyshire and Devon-Somerset borders.

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