Creating our own justice.

A full list of those involved in the hunt at the time is available here.

Firstly we must remember that immediately after the incident took place, when an ambulance was trying to get to the scene, the rest of the hunt blocked the road for five minutes. Rupert Nuttall the master at the time stood over the victim and proclaimed that she was fine. She suffered seven broken ribs and a punctured lung and was hospitalised for two weeks.

runty-over-nid

Mark Doggrell the redcoat that mowed the sab down initially gave a “no comment” interview then submitted a prepared statement after he had seen the video footage.

Under caution he stated he had a 10-15 second view of the gate on his approach, he changed this under cross examination and had to be rescued from tying himself in knots by his barrister.

He went from saying he carried on because “it was close” (meaning he thought he hadn’t hit anyone) to admitting he may have ‘clipped’ someone to saying it was a glancing blow.

He denied knowing protestors were in the area, then admitted he’d heard there were protestors around. When asked why he didn’t stop when he’d hit her, he said:
“If I thought it was a member of the public I’d have stopped”

He denied hearing the hunting horn used by the sabs, then said he thought it was a child’s toy.

The police couldn’t extrapolate a speed but the expert witness suggested it was up to 30mph.

That expert witness (Debbie Marsden) for the huntsman said Doggrell wouldn’t have felt the horse hitting the sab and his action of riding through a small gap was “appropriate”.

The expert gives riding lessons at a farm that hosts meets for the Duke of Buccleuch hunt.

It is the opinion of people who went to court that it was the expert witness testimony that secured Doggrell his “not guilty” judgement.

Doggrell said that he’d gone into the field to collect hounds, but there was no evidence of this on the video, only a couple that had followed him.

He said they were trail hunting and there would have been 2 or 3 people laying the trail, the truth is that the hunt was cub hunting, an activity that involves surrounding a wood and then sending in young hounds to get them to learn to kill for the season ahead. That they take children to such an event, perhaps explains the sort of people they grow up to be.

No sett surveying & a lack of resources could spell the end for badger culls.

nick911

As culls finally get underway in North Cotswolds and Herefordshire, I’ve been down in the southern cull zones to see if there is any obvious sharing of cages amongst cull zones, I’ve also been researching the previous resources and skills of the cullers and the companies and asking people on the ground what they make of it all.

Background:
Much has been learnt by both sides of those on the ground during the last few years of the badger culls. Cage contractors have worked harder to place traps in difficult to find locations, notably the middle of corn fields in Gloucestershire last year. Whereas in 2014 nearly 50 cages needed to be set to catch a single badger, in 2015 this dropped to only 20 traps set in Glos and 28 in Somerset.

That increase in efficiency wasn’t just in cage trapping, free shooting of badgers was also far more effective in 2015, it took just 3.4 hours per to find and shoot a badger in the new Dorset area. Just the year before in Gloucestershire it took more than three times as long at an astonishing 11.6 hours to find and kill each each badger.

akilllist

It’s not just an increase in skills by the cullers that leads to better results, the available population of badgers plays a huge part, so does the number of protestors and crucially the way that those protestors behave. Take an experienced activist and ask them to cover a huge expanse of a zone and their behaviour will completely change to when they had a much smaller area to cover with more activists in neighbouring fields.

The topography and the technology available to each side also makes a huge difference, Thermal Imaging & Night Vision equipment has had far greater value to anti-cull activists in Somerset as the hills allow further views. Those same hills in Somerset make road access slower for everyone, but specifically a cull contractor will take longer in Somerset purely due to topography when out free shooting. A shooter who lives on the farm they are killing on will obviously always be at an advantage wherever they are.

Lessons learnt in one area in one year, may have no relevance anywhere else and what happens in one year in one area, may not happen in that area again as methods are refined. Cages that have been found in a location one year are unlikely to be placed in the same location in following years by an experienced trapper, however farmers who aren’t particularly interested in culling have been known to put cages down in exactly the same place every year!

It certainly isn’t a simple case of some people doing better than others at either stopping the cull or killing badgers, nor is best practice ever going to be a one size fits all affair. Never the less there are some constants and one of them is the resources available to both sides.

Is there enough money for thermal imaging kit for shooters?:

Sensitive internal government documents passed onto us in 2013, which until now have never been put entirely into the public domain, (they’re quoted from in this guardian article) although from a time when cullers were very inexperienced, they do reveal some constant necessities for effective culling.

This email from Defra to Natural England on 16/10/2013 on the subject of an extension is perhaps most revealing:

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In another document which analysed the realistic chances of an extension in Gloucestershire in 2013 working, Somerset improvements are referred to:

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Intelligence we received from people within the cull company in Somerset that year was that shooters received thermal imaging equipment just two weeks into the cull, this was due to shooters being frequently located by activists, who, equipped with night vision kit, were frequently finding the cullers due to the reliance on infrared lamps to spot badgers.

Those infrared lamps and torches are used in conjunction with night vision scopes on rifles, switch the lamps off so that you can’t be seen by activists and badgers are harder to find. The solution, the issuing of Thermal Imaging (TI) to shooters, TI doesn’t need infra red lamps as it picks up heat not light. The shooting teams consists of a shooter and a spotter, the spotter has the TI, finds the badger then tells the shooter where to aim. The bag hanging from the spotters neck in this video, is most likely for a FLIR scout TI unit.

This letter from the West Gloucestershire cull company to Natural England on 9/10/2013 goes into some detail:

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With a total of ten badger cull zones now, can the National Farmers Union afford to buy thermal imaging equipment for all those shooters? The total number of people free shooting hasn’t been confirmed yet, but if it’s inline with previous culls, there will be between 500-1000 licensed killers to free shoot badgers. Even if they could afford the millions in costs for the equipment, would they be able to source it in time for this years cull?

 

Cage trapping experts and the problem with maize:

What became obvious very quickly in the first year of the badger cull was that the method of free shooting badgers couldn’t deliver results and that cage trapping would have to be relied upon. Even with zero activists on the ground there are two huge problems with free shooting.

The first is that an entire sett of badgers will frequently disperse if a key member within that setts community is killed and free shooting often only kills one badger from a sett per night.

The second problem is that it is incredibly labour intensive, the best average so far is three and a half hours per badger, pay someone £15 per badger they kill and make them pay for their own fuel and it’s fairly obvious why the number of people involved in killing drops rapidly after the first few days of a cull. Fewer badgers are about, many having left their last known whereabouts.

To overcome that problem cull companies offer shooters more money towards the last ten days of the cull, something many shooters have gotten wise too and now many wait till the companies are desperate and offer a lot more per head before coming back.

So to get round the inefficiency of free shooting, the method of cage trapping has become more and more popular with cull companies, although the cages are expensive they’ve not had to previously pay for them as Defra have been happy to give them to them for nothing, Where the total number was previously in the hundreds it now has to be around two thousand traps being set every day in total across the zones.

The letter from Gloscon promises to deploy all available traps every day, something that wouldn’t allow for any losses or much in the way of transportation time from sett to sett.

 

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Although it took them a couple of years, they eventually learnt in Gloucestershire that waiting for maize to be harvested and then free shooting meant tight man management due to harvesting times varying, instead they just deployed huge numbers of cage traps inside the maize. Sabs in 2015 found cages 40 rows into a maize field, the only way of effectively checking a maize field is with a large number of people stood in a line and sweeping it, protection is needed when doing this as bits can lash into your eyes.

This is a theory some people believe explains the increase in effectiveness in cage trapping in Gloucestershire from 2014 onto 2015. Finding cages in maize is hard work, how well other cull companies manage to deploy cages in maize remains to be seen.

Interestingly some of the cull companies have put tags on their cages this year. Within the zones that have name tagged cages, there are also cages that aren’t tagged. An assumption is that these untagged cages are on loan from Defra and may have to be returned, although how many actually make it through this cull is not going to be very high as reports are already pushing the number destroyed way into the hundreds.

If there are enough professional cage trappers to cover 7 new zones is doubtful, whats also in doubt is the availability of traps, it’s also unlikely that enough farmers within cull zones have had enough spare time to become sufficiently skilled  to undertake it themselves with much success, they’ve all been on a one day course, but skilled cage trapping takes experience, and they definitely don’t have that.

 

The government only sett surveyed in Somerset, Gloucestershire & Dorset.

One of the biggest difficulties faced whichever side you are on, is that you need to know where badgers live. You can’t stop badgers from being killed if you have no idea where they are, this was the problem for activists in Dorset in 2015, it took two hectic weeks for them to get on top of having the majority of setts mapped.

The cull company in Dorset had the upper hand by not only having been prepared for years, which included getting farmers to sett survey, but it also vitally had all the data from sett surveys by APHA which took place in 2013, 2014 and again in 2015.

You just can’t lay traps randomly throughout the countryside. Of course many of the dairy and beef small holders in roll out areas will know of a number of setts, but many won’t have a clue, as was pointed out by APHA in their assessment of Dorset farmers attempts:

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So we have seven new culls with targets that are based on estimates from a national population study, with no sett surveying at all done by professionals, this is completely new territory for badger cull companies, Who have to now rely totally on sett survey information done by the farmers that were be bothered enough to do it in their spare time.

Cattle farmers who have paid for the culls and who are the keenest to kill, if they are small enough, may well know where a number of the active setts are on their land, many farmers will go by memory on where setts are and that info could easily be way out of date, given that badgers frequently aren’t just in field boundary hedgerows and many of their setts will be in places that cattle never go to, is it likely that dairy farmers who already work long hours, will have had the time to do a proper job?

And what about arable farmers? and large estates? are they likely to have done a thorough job of sett surveying? because if they haven’t, the employed contractors that come onto the farms (where farmers aren’t doing it themselves) whether cage trapping or free shooting, may well be wasting a lot of time.

My experience this week with “Southern” activists:

Having recently spent a week with activists in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, a couple of things spring to mind, firstly the variation in the land and how “badgery” it is. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by people pointing out to me where they expected to find a lot or a little badger activity and how that consistently matched up with what they actually found, huge grins as they point and whisper conspiratorially
“there are bloody hundreds of badgers down there and we’ve found traps everywhere”
and the like are common.

Maybe I shouldn’t be impressed, after all most of the activists in the fields, now in their fourth year, are experts in badger behaviour and territory, they can effectively sabotage over huge areas during night or day due to their knowledge of the land, and new people, surrounded by activists who know what they are doing, seem to pick it all up incredibly quickly. Was it only three years ago that we all started?

 

It’s not the expertise of these activists that truly staggers me though, what I just can’t get over is the morale. Where I expected to find people struggling with a lack of manpower and deflated as the enormity of their task sinks in, instead I found, time and again, in every southern zone, activists who although were sleep deprived, still had mischievous smiles, nods and winks.

Several people in one of those areas thinks there aren’t enough badgers for the cull teams to hit the minimum targets, even if they did manage to kill a lot in the denser badger populated areas. Perhaps they were being optimistic, but they know the land and I had no reason to doubt them.

I’d often ask people if they felt they were having much of an impact, one person summed it up:
“I watched a cage trapper through a telescopic lens from nearly a mile away driving around a field and checking his traps, each place he checked, they’d gone, by the time he got to the third spot he was slamming the car door and punching it. He must hate us and I think if we’re grinding them down like that, we must be doing something right.”

I’ve found the enthusiasm in those zones highly infectious, a week before the cull started if you’d asked me if it was feasible could any of the new areas not hit their targets, I’d have been honest and said
“Not a chance, but maybe we can make it so expensive for them that they can’t roll out more next year”

My view now has totally changed, I genuinely believe they do have resource problems, with a lack of cages, thermal imaging kit for the free shooters, cage trapping skills and most importantly, they don’t seem to know where all the badgers are.

We on the other hand do know where setts are, so no matter how many cages they’ve got it will be difficult to kill the required amount.

The pixies I’ve been talking to are already trashing hundreds of them!

Direct action against badger culls has never been more vital or effective than now. With our enemy seriously over stretched, every blow we deliver now, could, with enough of us, put an end to badger culling permanently.

 

See you in the fields
Freeda Brocks x

to get involved: http://badgeractionnetwork.org.uk/contact/

to help with our Gen3 Night Vision check our gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/stopthecull-NV3

for a general fund to help “Stop the Cull”:

badger cull music video has cullers losing their minds.

large 53MB version, suitable for broadband:

removed from Vimeo after multiple complaints from pro-cull moaners, we’re happy to now be able to broadcast the video from our own site. Enjoy.

small 14MB version, suitable for phones & slow internet:

If you’d like to help us, buy us a coffee!

InfraRed drone to be used to spot shooters

In the first year of the cull we learnt that shooters use infrared (IR) lamps and torches, they use them in conjunction with night vision IR scopes so that they can spot and shoot badgers from greater distances. These infrared lamps quickly gave their locations away and they tended to use them less and less if they knew we were about.

Primarily we have always used night vision equipment to locate them, we have quite a few Gen 2+ and even Gen 3, a current fund raiser for some Gen 3 is here.

However there is quite a technologically primitive way of seeing IR light at night and that is to take off the UV filter from any digital camera, the range you get depends on the quality of the camera and how near the light source is and of course shooters are often in nearby fields, so hedges are an obstacle.

So with the price of drones dropping drastically, we thought it was time to invest in one, the DJI Phantom 3 (standard) was around £1,000 this time last year, now if you shop about you can get one for under £400

This is one of those particular drones with the UV filter taken off, remember it is nothing special, just an ordinary camera without a filter, without that filter it can spot shooters IR lamps, if they don’t have lamps on then this drone won’t be able to see them.

 

If you’d like to help us get up into the night sky and spot shooters, then please donate on this Ko-fi link. Thank you

Somerset & Glos badger culls are unlicenced & illegal.

Information on the seven new areas and authorisation letters for all ten areas can be found on this link.

Whilst you will find the licences for the seven new areas on that gov website link, what you won’t see is the licences for W.Gloucestershire or W.Somerset, both were granted in 2012
Gloucestershires was granted on 17th September 2012 and was valid until 30th November 2015:

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W.Somerset licence was issued the following month on 4th October 2012 with the same end date of 30th November 2015

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Of course Natural England can extend the licence for an extra period of time to cover this year, but they have issued no such extension.
We must assume until Natural England issue an extension or a new licence that all culling is unlawful, if you find a cage set to trap anywhere in the county of Gloucestershire or Somerset you must assume it is set to illegally trap badgers. Consider taking it into the police station and reporting the land owner. Better still, just trash it. The same goes for shooters, consider locking any gates with a shooter in the field and reporting immediately to the police. Unlawful badger culling is a serious criminal offence.

Vaccination cages to be used this year in badger cull.

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It’s becoming clear that this years badger cull that aims to kill 9,841 badgers isn’t going to be easy for the cull companies. For them to hit their targets they need to work unhindered and very quickly, with a huge amount of cages. Based on the number of cages put down to kill each badger being 15 set (which is the lowest figure they’ve managed so far) and assuming they try to kill 6000 with traps, then they would need to set 90,000 traps.

With the cull operating for six weeks then they’d need to have 2,142 traps down on the ground every day. To have that number down you need to have some being transported and some in reserve, easily bringing the number up to close to 3,000 traps actually needed.

So do they have 3,000 traps? well Defra revealed last year that even though the badger cull killing is supposed to be paid for by farmers, they had lent the cull companies an unknown amount saying:
“We did not keep a record of which of the recently purchased cage traps were loaned for use in the culls.”

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that this July, Defra requested that all cages given to groups vaccinating badgers were returned to them. No doubt those cages are now on the ground and set to kill.

Even with thousands of traps put out, the low ratio that is needed to kill badgers can easily be ramped up by activists. Every trap that is taken out this week not only lowers the overall number killed, but makes it harder for that particular sett to be targeted. In Somerset and Glos we have seen ratio’s as high as 49 traps needed to be set to kill one badger. If that was replicated it would require 294,000 traps to be set, a staggering 7,000 traps laid out across the zones each day.

Stopping the cullers from reaching their targets this year is feasible, it requires maximum numbers of people checking setts and runs for traps in the first couple of weeks.
check badgeractionnetwork.org.uk

 

can they kill 9,841 badgers this year?

licences for the ten zones here

So far over a total period of 52 weeks of combined culling in three areas over three years nearly 4,000 badgers have been killed. So is it actually possible for nearly ten thousand to be killed in the ten zones this year?

Each zone now can kill for more than 6 weeks, but not much killing is likely to happen in November as badgers come out far less frequently. So at most there is 10 weeks in which to kill these ten thousand badgers, no doubt the areas that have had culls in previous years will manage to reach their very low targets this year:
the minimum number of badgers to be removed in Area 1- Gloucestershire in 2016 is 228.
The minimum number of badgers to be removed in Area 2-Somerset is 75.
The minimum number of badgers to be removed in Area 3-Dorset is 390.

 

The roll out targets can be found on p16 of this link
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After 2013 it became obvious to everyone that free shooting isn’t an effective method of killing, the idea was that only 10% of badgers would be killed in traps where shooting was difficult. All the data from previous years shows that roughly half of killing is done with traps, last year more than half was done with traps in the first year of killing in Dorset.

On average cullers in Dorset were setting 158 traps every day during the cull last year, so if that is replicated across all the areas to achieve about 60% killed with traps. Around 2000 traps need to be set every day. Some traps go missing and a number are always being transported from sett to sett and there is usually a reservoir of traps kept, so in total we’d expect this years cull to be relying on about 3,000 cage traps.

Our intelligence tells us that they don’t have that many traps, which means that they have to share traps within zones and with neighbouring zones. This means that more than ever, the destruction of cage traps is going to have a massive impact on this years cull, every single trap that is taken out in the first week could be stopping many many more badgers being killed in the ongoing weeks.

Traps are being found now in zones as they are put down before culls start to get badgers used to them, play your part. Find the traps.

for advice on how to help: http://badgeractionnetwork.org.uk/

Save lives now BEFORE the cull

Every year before the cull starts the cull companies put down many many traps, they are wired open so that they can’t catch any badgers. The reason they do this is because badgers are shy creatures and anything new in their environment they treat with suspicion.

Many of us are now wondering, with a roll out to 6 new areas, how we can be as effective as we were in the past, to stop culls from reaching the minimum targets, If we are to learn from previous years, having a look at data is quite important. This spreadsheet may help:

akilllist

 

One of the really important figures to try and understand for the roll out areas is “traps set”, in 2014 there were 5,359 set in Glos and 7,598 set in Somerset although some won’t be in use every day and of course some go missing, if we divide those number by 42 which is the number of days of culling we can see there were approximately 131 traps set every day in Gloucestershire and 180 set every day in Somerset.

A total of 311 traps in use in total every day across both zones in 2014.

If we then look at 2015 when there was a roll out:
Dorset had 6,661 traps set, which is 158 traps set per day
Somerset had 3,667 traps set which is 87 traps set per day
Glos had 3,143 traps set which is 74 traps set per day

A total of 319 traps were in use across three zones in 2015.

These numbers are averages, so there could be more or less in each zone on one given day, obviously a number of traps will be getting transported each day and so not in use and many will need replacing due to anti cull activists destroying them, so Dorset for example may have 200 traps a day to begin with and less as culling went on.

We know from intelligence that cull companies in the roll out zones have put a lot of resources and time into training farmers to do the cage trap culling, one area is aiming at 70% of killing to be with traps another is aiming for 80%

Something we need to be very aware of is that in Dorset last year more than half of the badgers trapped and killed happened in the first week, the figures are on this link.

For the cull companies to replicate what they did in Dorset last year is now very difficult due to them not having a thousand extra traps, even if they did have one thousand extra traps, it’s still roughly only 150 in each zone.

If we get out into the fields this week and start looking for them and neutralising them, it is very possible that we could stop them reaching their targets, we must also when culling starts put maximum effort in roll out areas into working during the day, especially if an area still needs sett surveying.

By thinking AND acting strategically in the roll out areas, we really can make a big difference this year. If you need help to find your local group or area contact: http://badgeractionnetwork.org.uk/

If you find traps but aren’t able to deal with them yourself, please contact someone as soon as possible from a local group.

 

To buy the writer a cup of coffee, click the link below, thank you

Badger culls to start next week

Culling in  Gloucestershire is expected to start next week on the 1st of September and a week later in North Cotswolds on the 8th of September.

Culling has in previous years started between 27th August and 8th of September.

Our advice currently for booking time off work for the remaining 7 zones is to book it from Monday the 5th of September, Its vital that we get maximum numbers of people into cull zones for the first week, So please do aim to start coming into roll out zones for Friday September 2nd.

Wether you can walk 20 miles a night or sit in a car sipping coffee, everyone can make a difference and be effective in stopping the killing of badgers, contact http://badgeractionnetwork.org.uk/ for details of your nearest zone and how you can help.

Redmarley badger baiters caught red handed

 

In the run up to badger culls, it’s important especially in the week before to keep an eye on badger setts to see if they are being pre-baited in preparation for the cull. Last weekend two anti-cull activists were doing exactly that when they came across a gang of badger baiters.

 

The long handled shovels they’d been using to dig deep holes into the sett were quickly thrown to the floor, before the four men, described as having local accents, picked up the terriers that they had planned to use and ran off into the surrounding maize field.

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Police were immediately called and a police helicopter was on the scene within minutes, quickly followed by a number of officers on foot, which included sniffer dogs in an attempt to track down the wildlife criminals.

 

One of the men had been seen and overheard using a mobile phone and with the use of the tracking dogs it became apparent that the men had fled to a nearby layby and been picked up, the police dogs carried on searching and soon came across a pair of men in a nearby field who were armed with guns.

 

These two shooters are thought not to be linked to the badger baiters as they did have legitimate permissions from the farmer a Mr. Malcolm Stallard. It wasn’t long before Mr.Stallard turned up, his response to being told that there had been badger baiters attacking a sett on his land was perphaps predictable, he accused the activists of digging the hole.

 

The police don’t appear to be holding the same view as the farmer and a full scale criminal investigation is now underway, with evidence left at the scene and the baiters using a mobile phone at the location, we hope it shouldn’t be long until arrests are made.

footage from the sett, taken last year
Jay Tiernan spokesperson for the campaign group “Stop the Cull” said:

 

Time and again we find incidents of badger persecution inside the badger cull zones; snaring, blocked setts, badger baiting, poisoning, shootings have all been found and reported to the police over the last three years.

We call on the National Farmers Union and specifically all the badger cull organisers to make a public statement condemning illegal badger persecution, if they do not, we must assume that they are complicit in these crimes and should be treated accordingly.

 

 

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