.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Big Brother and the badger cull

The Western Telegraph gives a good indication of the sort of tensions that are being generated in North Pembrokeshire by the decision of the Labour-Plaid Cymru Government to carry out a cull of badgers there.

The paper reports that men, masked to hide their identities and accompanied by police, have visited farms and small holdings in the area to carry out preparatory sett survey work. They say that three people have been arrested in connection with the cull:

Police have confirmed that two men were arrested under articles five and six of the Tuberculosis Eradication (Wales) order 2009.

The act states that an authorised Welsh Assembly Government officer may enter any premises, apart from a domestic dwelling, to treat badgers and that the occupier of the land must comply.

Article six states that it is an offence to obstruct or interfere with anything being done or used in connection with the treatment or destruction of badgers.

Police said a third man has been arrested for theft

I have been told by campaigners in Pembrokeshire that the Welsh Government's contractors were wearing balaclavas and sunglasses. My contact tells me that the person who was arrested for theft was in fact released without charge as all he was doing was holding the photocards presented to him as identification by the contractors. My contact poses the question as to how exactly one is supposed to verify identity when the contractors have covered their faces.

They say that the landowner merely wanted to go and phone the telephone number on the ID cards as the Welsh Government procedure states they are advised to do. Instead he was arrested to prevent him doing this leaving just his elderly parents, one of them very sick, to cope.

I am also told that contractors have been turning up completely unannounced, with their faces obscured, often terrifying people, especially those living on their own or whom are elderly and vulnerable.

The Welsh Government's spokesman on this issue concedes that people have the right to peacefully protest at locations 'where it is safe and when it is lawful and proportionate and in connection with a legitimate aim', whatever that means:

"Our main aim is to lawfully carry out this work to identify where badger setts are in the area. Bovine TB is a crisis we have to deal with and we need to co-ordinate activity effectively."

"It has been made clear from the outset that the identity of contractors would not be put in the public domain. Clearly today the contractors tried to protect their identity because of their concern about the situation and level of personal intimidation. They felt that that their identity was not being respected by the media and individuals."

Surely there is a difference between not publishing the identity of contractors and allowing them to turn up on people's doorsteps mob-handed and hiding behind disguises. Surely, contractors and the police should be allowing landowners to check the identity of those coming onto their land in accordance with government guidance rather than behaving in what appears to be an unacceptable way.

As it is, if these reports are correct, it appears that the methods being utilised are creating a siege mentality in some parts of this area of Wales. If there is personal intimidation of contractors as the Government allege then they should provide proof. All we have seen so far is the landowners themselves feeling intimidated by the way that the Government is going about this cull.

Update: The Western Telegraph carries a further story today:

An attempted badger survey sparked an eight hour protest as Cilgwyn residents questioned the Welsh Assembly Government's right to enter their land.

Residents of Brithdir Mawr and Tir Ysbrydol alleged they had not been properly notified that officials were to enter their land, and they were unable to check the identity of the men because they were wearing black masks.

Around six police vans and cars full of officers were at the scene during the protest which lasted from 10am to 6pm.

Resident Emma Orbach said: "It's disgusting, this is totally without our permission.

"We have a history in this valley and we do not give up."

The masked men were finally escorted onto the land by police, while residents chanted "shame on you!", but left soon afterwards due to technical issues.

Officals said they would notify residents before their next visit.

Resident Felicia Ruperti said: "We will still protest when they come back. "I felt very intimidated by the amount of police here today. We have been peaceful from the start and have not threatened anyone."

Surely the Rural Affairs Minister can see the damage she is doing with these heavy-handed tactics.
I find the Welsh Assembly unbelievable, and their powers under their Eradication order defies belief. What country are we living in? These are local residents of the cull area whose rights have been removed almost entirely by this Assembly. If this is devolution, then it is wicked.
Thank-you for covering this. I am a landowner in the `cull` area and am anxiously awaiting a visit from these contractors. Today I have phoned the Welsh Assembly Government, the WAG Bovine TB helpline, the local police and the Bovine TB police, in the hope that when I am working alone on my land this situation will not happen to me. No one has reassured me, I have not been able to speak to anyone who even seems to know what is going on and no one has called me back. This now goes beyond whether or not one agrees with a badger cull, it moves into the realm of human rights and I feel, as I live in fear of masked contractors accompanied by the police,turning up uninvited and without prior notification on my private propery that I am being stripped of these rights.
Why the need for so many police vehicles and officers?

I know the community involved and always found them to be peaceful, non violent people! Why the balaclava helmets? I understand the surveyors are not even local people - is it because they have something to hide or are ashamed of what they are doing?

I wonder what would have happened if the protesters/landowners started to wear helmets - they have a right to privacy too and have far more to lose than contractors who are all paid well for what they are doing.

This is going to put a lot of law abiding systems off protesting - or was this WAG's plan?

All this is very sad, a disgusting waste of taxpayers' money and I cannot believe what is happening. Why can't MPs and AM's put a stop to this appalling behaviour by a government body and what an absolute waste of public money and at a time of financial crisis?

I emailed our MP, Jonathan Edwards, as my family was disgusted at this behaviour in a so called democratic society. His response is below. I have asked him to make appropriate representation.

'Many thanks for your e mail. I was unaware of the protest or the overt Police presence. I clearly support peaceful protest and would share your concerns in relation to heavy handed law enforcement. If you would like me to make representations to Dyfed Powys Police on your behalf then please don’t hesitate to contact me.'
I also live in the cull area and share Jade's concerns. If this level of paranoia is being generated by the surveying, what on earth will it be like once the shooting begins? Can we expect anonymous, masked contractors, roaming our land at all hours of the night, armed with guns and escorted by hordes of police drawn from outside the area, all at public expense? Even at the £10 million price-tag admitted to by WAG as the cost of killing 1500 badgers, it works out at £6,000 per dead badger. It's madness and I pray every day that sense will prevail and it will be stopped before the killing begins.
I can confirm that I was the person arrested for 'theft' - meaning that I was holding the cards given to me in order to identify the contractors by the photo, and was trying to do so as we are advised by WAG. I was only hesitant to both give the cards back without seeing their face and allow them free access to our land.

If they were willing show their faces so I could ID them, or to leave and agree to come back with a proper appointment, the would have had their cards back immediately - nor was there ever any suggestion that I would keep their cards indefinitely.

They also turned up without a reasonable notice (barring "sometime next week") when my elderly and disabled father was alone on the farm. It is pure chance that I turned up when I did - I had been called to assist supporters at the simultaneous invasion at Brithdir Mawr and had returned to the farm to fetch my camera.

My father was trembling with shock at the invasion of WAG officials, contractors and police in a riot van and I am disgusted at this underhand and heavy handed action. If, as they claim, they have the support of most of the landowners they have absolutely no need to carry out a cull - the RBCT on which they are basing all their scientific support did not force entry onto objector's land, and these days we have the option of vaccinating badgers in unculled areas.
Ian said,
£6000 per badger for the cull! no doubt this will be paid out of local community charge bills. Where are the Police being diverted from? to attend the first of many visits to the killing fields of Wales. And finally I'm sure if land owners or protesters covered their faces then they would be arrested. I think the cull should stop before any more trouble is caused or badgers slaughtered. It won't work, you'll still have TB and perhaps you need to look at the movement of cattle as opposed to persecuting wildlife.
It is absurd really for the welsh assembly to say that the 'masked men' were going about their lawful business when landowners tried to prevent them entering their land to survey it for setts. This is a really void and arrogant statement as the assembly government tailor-made that law to suit themselves. The good people who tried to prevent them are depicted by the assembly government as 'criminals', when really we all know they are, and have probably always been, very law-abiding citizens. I note the huge number of (state?) police at the scene - when my property was burgled two years ago, when I phoned the police (about 20 mns after it happened) I was told they didn't have any one 'free' to come around straight away, but someone would come around in about 20 mins - 25 mins later, no sign of police, burgulars well gone by then. After then shouting down the phone, one officer turned up about half an hour later. What a difference! The welsh assembly is a disgrace - I hope we never fully devolve - imagine if they had 'absolute' power. I'm off to my welsh language class now - I only speak english so I'm more half screwed for working in the public sector, thank you plaid!

We are definitely progressing toward dictatorial rule.
This is very disturbing, on all sorts of levels, but surely if these people are prepared to take money for slaughtering the badgers they should not be able to do so hiding under a balaclava. As for ID cards without names on them - only Labour could dream that one up (and only Plaid could abet it just to appease their rural farmers 'base')!
So very saddened by what is being done to an area I love by a party I voted for and of which I have been a member for many years (Labour). Plaid, shame on you too... I hope your collaboration in this appeasement of a proportion of the farming community will NEVER be forgotten by those who have previously supported you out of a belief in socialism. To those of you on the front line, thank you...

To the set surveyors... Twenty five years ago I was raped by a man wearing a balaclava who threatened my life. I can only shudder at what is being reported from beautiful Cilgwyn. We all need a wage, I appreciate that... but please ask yourselves what you are being asked to be a part of... I don't blame you at all individually, but please, collectively, think about it.

I trust you will understand my wish for anonymity in the light of the above...
Video of the events at Brithdir Mawr, including the arrests has been posted on YouTube:

Even more footage of the arrests, including Gavin Wheeler's arrest for 'theft' and interviews with Elin Jones, on S4C Y Byd ar Bedwar:
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?