Animal rights activists have secretly filmed a series of security and planning meetings between police and marksmen organising this autumn’s badger cull, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
The covert filming on private property at a North Devonshire farm has been condemned as both illegal and a serious breach of security, as well as the latest “bullying” tactics by ant-badger cull groups.
A series of hidden camera video clips seen by the Sunday Telegraph show people sitting on bales of hay in a barn alongside sacks of peanuts, often used as bait, and heavy duty plastic bags used to dispose of the animals’ bodies. An officer from Devon and Cornwall police was at the meetings to outline security issues regarding animal rights activists.
The Stop the Cull group, which has vowed to disrupt the Government’s badger cull intended to prevent the spread of Bovine TB, has revealed it now plans to publish online the footage from the farm, as well as a gallery of those staff from cull companies involved in killing the animals.
Around 18 hours of footage was made after activists fitted a camera in a barn at the farm, which the Telegraph is not naming for security reasons.
The group claims the recordings which capture three meetings have provided a “treasure trove” of information that will help it wreak havoc for the cull, both in the North Devon area and at cull zones are the country.
Although it is not known how the camera was fitted, it has raised the prospect that an activist may have trespassed on private land to install the device.
A National Farmers’ Union spokeswoman said: “Security breaches on farm are unacceptable and must be taken extremely seriously.
“We recognise people’s right to protest legally but this should not be allowed to interfere with the ability of people to carry out what are legal, licensed activities as part of a Government policy.”
Polly Portwin of the Countryside Alliance described condemned those responsible, claiming it was an example of “classic behaviour” from animal rights extremists who don’t care about the spread of TB.
“They couldn’t care less about the laws around filming on private property nor whether they breach security designed to protect the welfare of those in attendance from extremists, by doing so.
“It is tantamount to bullying and their aim is to stir up harassment towards hard working, law abiding members of the farming community.”
However, Jay Tiernan, of Stop the Cull which has obtained the footage, said he “couldn’t care less” if laws had been broken.
“This footage provides us with numerous invaluable details that will help us disrupt culls in the area, as well as information that will prove useful for disrupting other cull zones,” he said.
“Information obtained includes when the start of the cull will begin, technology they are using to avoid protesters, and a library of the faces of those involved in the cull itself.
“We are looking at sharing and publishing as much of the footage as we can among activists.
“I couldn’t care less if it was or wasn’t filmed illegally, our business is to stop badgers from being killed using direct action.”
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokeswoman said officers regularly attend briefings “to ensure that everyone involved is clear on how to operate both safely and lawfully”.
She added: “During the cull our role is to maintain public safety, police peaceful protest and to impartially prevent and detect criminality wherever it occurs.”
A Defra spokesman said no officials from the department attended the three filmed meetings, adding: “Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK and we are pursuing a range of interventions to eradicate the disease by 2038.”