GBO has taken over coordination in full of the North Cotswold area of the Gloucestershire cull zone for 2017 and onwards.
The work, as always, started long before the cull did in the cull zone and potential cull zone areas – many areas were not surveyed in the North Cots zone as it’s a big area and we had suspicions about areas of southern Glos being signed up. Sett-surveying and ‘Introduction to the Cull Zones’ days were set up and our wonderful fundraisers had continued to run auctions throughout the winter to keep up a funding base from which cull campaigners could draw much needed fuel money. Locals check setts year-round, particularly in hunt countries, and ‘bad husbandry’ is constantly spotted all over the place, including on an area of land near to Uckington which we confirmed last year is signed up to the cull.
“Sett-checking in the North Cotswolds zone on Friday brought the discovery of several sheep carcasses (in various stages of decay, some piled on top of one another over time) left to rot in a field where bait-points were found during the cull last year and we caught ‘PVC’ trying to shoot on a number of occasions in an adjacent field.
We were spotted and, having gone back today to check, the landowners have obviously had a little attempt to clean up – the farm is being reported to DEFRA regardless, especially as parts of sheep are still lying around, a foot here, a head there… while we obviously focus on biosecurity relating to the farming of cows, how can farms with such blatant breaches of regulations with regards to other farmed animals be allowed to take part in such things as the badger cull?
We’ll be keeping a close eye on this area which is in the southern part of the North Cots zone, not far from Cheltenham – a place called Uckington. We have more evidence of exact location and sheep bodies from both Friday and today, but obviously do not wish to disclose anything relating to badger sett locations and activity”
On 30th August 2017 the licence for the West Gloucestershire zone was released (obviously with actual cull dates redacted) with the minimum number of badgers to be killed being 160 and the maximum number 580. There was no mention of how long the culling period may last for… it turns out that the cull began earlier in the summer and it ended up carrying on until the end of January 2018 (with cage-trapping finishing at the end of November as per the guidelines). It was in August that we launched our new website (welcome!) as well as work had been put into writing up a history and writing up general information about the cull.
North Cotswold, North Wiltshire, Herefordshire…
Licences were released in the second week of September for the remainder of the zones (i.e. every zone other than the 2 original pilot cull zones in Gloucestershire and Somerset). The target for North Cotswolds would be minimum: 1007, maximum: 1906 and one of the North Wiltshire zones would also include bits of Gloucestershire, as confirmed by the police during one of the Multi-Agency Meetings (MAG) that we attend as a group.
Despite being told by others that none of Gloucestershire would be included in the North Wiltshire zone, locals kept an eye on the area and early in September it was confirmed that parts of Gloucestershire would indeed be included in the Wiltshire cull zone. Bit by bit we at GBO, working with groups of locals, eliminated and confirmed different areas west and north of the Wiltshire-Gloucestershire county boundary, first finding evidence of the cull to the south west of Tetbury, then the north east, up towards Cirencesters and Nailsworth and the northern boundary is now drawn up by Stroud…
This cull contractor was filmed within the North Wiltshire zone on a trail camera we put up when we found pre-bait. Trail cameras have proved useful in figuring out how active setts are, checking which cull contractors are operating in which areas and if they are covering more than one area each and so on.
As usual a number of hunts are out in the 3 zones. This includes the North Cotswold Hunt which operate in and around the North Cots zone and are prolific sett blockers, the Heythrop in the same area with the same behaviours, the Ledbury over in the West Glos (and Herefordshire) zone, the Cotswold Vale who hunt in West Glos and North Cots, the Cotswold in the North Cots zone and the Beaufort in the North Wiltshire zone…! There are, of course, others as well.
During the cull, we ended up mentioned in the ‘Local Heroes’ section of Animal Aid’s ‘Outrage’ magazine who mentioned our work against wider wildlife persecution and the cull. Many thanks to them for helping to spread the word!
Highgrove and the Royals:
“Last week we received a tip-off from a credible source that land owned by Prince Charles (Duchy of Cornwall) in Gloucestershire is signed up to the Wiltshire cull. The information received was that it’s “not just Highgrove” meaning that smaller, fragmented bits of land with tenant farmers may also be included. If that land was signed up, what other areas near the Glos-Wilts border would also be involved?
With experienced people living locally and having already started to sett-survey the southern areas of Gloucestershire at the end of last year’s cull in anticipation of future zones, we were straight on coordinating the area. Very soon reports were coming in that culling activity was being found South West of Tetbury, outside of the area initially thought to be the Wilts zone (including on land owned by Duchy of Cornwall). Activity was then found North East of Tetbury, again including land owned by Duchy of Cornwall.
What is worrying is the vicinity of bait points on one of these bits of land that have been set up for ‘free shooting’ to the A433 and the limitations of directions available to shoot – towards the sett, towards the A-road, towards another road, from a cramped corner and in the direction of a footpath…
We continue to search the southern areas of Gloucestershire, finding new information about areas involved in culling each day”
We confirmed that Highgrove (Prince Charles’ residence) was signed up to the cull in September and the papers picked up on the situation. Bait points were also found on other land owned by Charlie (there are a number of Duchy of Cornwall farms in the area). Broadfield Farm near Tetbury is one of these and bait points were found within 15m of the A433 – with shooters being restricted by not being able to shoot towards a sett, they would have had a very small area where they could shoot from and towards, otherwise they would risk those using a nearby footpath, a B-road or the A-road itself…!
The other side of Tetbury, early in October, a shot was heard very close to residences. Upon investigation, a shooter was found face-down and hiding behind a drystone wall. No buddy with him and around 400m from the nearest houses… the papers picked up on the potential safety issues, also quoting us on the risky badger points and shooting on Broadfield Farm land.
Because of worries about cull activity on the land, we arranged a wounded badger patrol around the footpaths in the area. Two shooters were apprehended nearby after shots were heard… followed by ‘shots’ being heard by a second team of patrollers. Going to investigate, rook scarers (small explosives tied to a rope and lit so that they explode and make a noise to scare aware crows, etc) which would not be used in the middle of the night and which have been thrown at patrollers before or used as decoys or in an attempt to upset us.
Having retrieved the rook scarers and put them out of action, we carried on with the patrol… finding out later that the scarers were actually on Highgrove land. Very mature Princey!
Only days after our walk, we finally confirmed that Gatcombe Park (Princess Anne’s property) was also signed up to the cull. We had been tipped off about this and had already had our suspicions but, despite a few days of searching in the area, we had not yet found cull activity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the day we found a cage (right by a very active sett, but with peanuts going mouldy) we were soon ‘pounced upon’ (politely) by the (armed) Royal Protection Squad and swiftly removed from the land.
*** Princess Anne’s land signed up to the badger cull –
Activists removed from land by armed police ***
“Yesterday Gatcombe Park was sett surveyed. A tied trap was found with manky peanuts in it, confirming that landowner Princess Anne is signed up for the cull and that the North Wilts zone extends even further into Gloucestershire. The Royal Household Protection squad turned up to say hello and were very polite albeit armed. Gatcombe is not subject to SOCPA restrictions like Highgrove.
Princess Anne once notoriously said that she supported the gassing of badgers. Judging by the fenn traps we also found on the “wildlife reserve” she has some odd ideas about animal welfare. Anne and Charles are in privileged positions where anything they say gets attention (which works both ways). They are no better or worse or more important than any other landowner signed up for the cull but we will expose the fact that they are killing badgers.
Please share and let us know if you can come out to check setts!”
“Reports reach us that cull activity (including a cage set right on a badger sett entrance from what we can see by photos sent to us) has been found in an area near Chavenage. Cull activity has been spotted not far from Nailsworth, meaning the Wiltshire zone extends up towards Stroud.
Despite the friendly signs they put up, the Cranmore area is well known for pheasant shooting and allowing fox hunting on the land. About 3 years ago covert footage was obtained at a sett on the land of a man pouring diesel into the entrances. One of the cages found today was reported to be in the neighbouring covert.
Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch (who gathered the covert footage) monitor the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt which hunts foxes around the area and other areas of the cull zones. Blocked setts have also been found on this land.
With no cattle being farmed and no incidences of bTB showing up on the ibTB map nearby, plus the somewhat badger-unfriendly history of the place we wonder if perhaps they have other motives than wanting to curb bTB…?”
…. " VK13 ZRV Landrover Defender… Suspected Shooters found in our area of the North Cots Zone tonight… "
Posted by Mandy Gwilt on Thursday, October 19, 2017
Known people involved:
Obviously various people are involved in culling, but some of those that are most well-known (other than the Royals of course) include:
– the Gilders family
– M80 CJD
– Charlie Golding-Barrett
Jack Gilder, in the North Cots zone in October, was caught on numerous occasions attempting to lamp and shoot badgers.
… " Just go away!! Just go away!! "… " No chance!! "
Posted by Mandy Gwilt on Thursday, October 12, 2017
In the same area various shooters were spotted out on quad bikes and in 4x4s. Jack Gilder was one of the main guys, gun slung over his shoulder, who thought it acceptable to shine a bright light in the eyes of the driver of a vehicle driving down the road to monitor him. Police said they would investigate incidents such as this and other situations which occurred, including an attempt to ram another sab vehicle off the road in the North Cotswolds.
“A couple of sabs from the Three Counties Sab group caught a shooter and his buddy trying to shoot badgers in the North Cotswold cull zone. As the quad (illegally) drove on to a nearby public road* with gun unsecured and in hand, they also thought it appropriate to shine bright lights into the face of the driver.
*this type of quad is generally either road legal and unable to carry passengers or for agricultural use and shouldn’t be on the main roads (other than moving from field to field)”
We were shocked, in October, when we found out that NFU branch chairman Simon Pain had been jailed for grooming and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. During the first year of the cull he had driven into one of our campaigners and injured her whilst she walked up a track with her partner and at the end of the 2015 cull he “lost his sh*t” at a MAG meeting and ranted about us being ‘terrorists’. But this information came as a surprise to many.
As the culls came to an end in the North Cotswold, North Wiltshire and Herefordshire zones (carrying on in the West Gloucestershire zone for a few more months) hunts were still blocking badger setts, many of which are the same setts that are targeted within the culls. MAG meetings continue for a short time after the culls end and the last one of the year was especially interesting and related to the following incident from during the cull…
***BADGER BLOOD BODY BAG BTB SPREADING?***
“Last night cull contractors were found driving white Ford Ranger VE56 HSX through Snowshill in the North Cotswold cull zone. This bloodied badger body bag (pictured) was loose in the back of their pickup. The bag blew about in the wind, caught on something, splattering badger blood down the back of their 4X4 for several miles, then blew off. The badger shooters didn’t notice this. After an altercation with an aggressive farmer who prevented further following of the vehicle, a 999 call and a chat with responding police officers cull sabs went back and found the bag.
If the badger had bTB, this could easily spread the disease, defeating the whole point of shooting the badger that was at some point in the bag. If there was a un-bagged shot badger out of sight in the pickup, this would be a breach of license guidelines and a massive biosecurity risk (that’s if badgers do actually have a meaningful part in spreading bTB). The incident shows the contractors’ complete incompetence and carelessness”
A member of Three Counties Hunt Sabs who helped to found Gloucestershire Badger Office spoke openly at the meeting about biosecurity and how the cull can continue to be licenced when it, in fact, might even be helping to spread bTB itself. She asked both the NFU and the police who would take responsibility for dealing with biosecurity issues.
The police had already confirmed earlier in the year that they would continue to deal with reports regarding (physically) unsafe cull practices such as bait being placed thoughtlessly or lazily in areas and shots being taken when people are present in the vicinity*… but who would deal with unsafe practices when the safety issue was about livestock and wildlife security and the spread of diseases. She mentioned the spreading of slurry, allowing hunts to hunt through farms with open cases of bTB (which can be found out by looking at the iBTB map commissioned by DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly).
*although they did nothing about reports of unsafe shooting practices suring the strong winds of Storm Ophelia
To illustrate her point, she produced from her bag the badger body bag which she had had vacuum-packed properly for biosecurity reasons and showed the shocked members of the MAG meeting. Speechless they listened as she explained how she had come into possession of the bag and how it had blown across several fields, dripping blood, having blown off the bag of the 4×4 when the dead badger had rolled out of it… obviously no guidelines had been followed with regards to double-bagging the body, cable-tying the bags closed and so on. A member finally found his voice, a parish spokesman from an area of the cull zones, shaking with rage that she could possibly have brought such an item to a meeting. She argued back that he wasn’t angry about the fact the bag had been allowed to ‘get loose’ out in the zone where it could actually cause damage if the badger had in fact had bTB (or other diseases). The map above shows the route of the 4×4 from where sabs believe the badger was bagged up to where the bag blew off and where the 4×4 then continued on to…
To end for now, here’s a short personal story from ‘M’ about her journey into the cull zone and why she’s still here years later:
“5 yrs ago I read that campaign had been set up: Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting. At the time I was living in the Forest of Dean and the new Head of the RSPCA, Gavin Grant, came to speak to us at a Hotel in Coleford. He spoke from the heart and he explained that DEFRA wanted to begin shooting badgers at night because they were thought to spread Bovine Tuberculosis to cattle.
I read up a bit about bTB and and listened to a local farmer, a dairy farming expert. He explained what I could easily see was true. Dairy cows must be constantly made pregnant to produce milk for the dairy industry. They are artificially inseminated and I remembered seeing a cow in a stable and the vet arriving to inseminate her. I went to see her as he left. She was facing the wall and I could feel her dismay. She had just been violated.
The farmer, whose name is Steve Jones, is an expert in setting up dairy farms – he explained that due to the cows’ lives they are very stressed and because of this their immune systems don’t function well at all. From this I looked at some awful youtube videos showing what a dairy cow’s life is like, often seeing their calves shot in front of them, sometimes immediately after birth, because they are male. Treated as objects. I have been a ‘veg head’ since I was 14 and now I rapidly turned vegan.
I was already a campaigner for greyhounds and was learning about the cruelty inflicted upon our fellow creatures… 5 yrs later and, at 71 yrs old, I sometimes feel I’m swimming and need to give all the sadness and anger a rest, to come up for air. We’re about to begin a roll out of the badger culling. Licences are about to be issued by Natural England again with 14,849 badgers already killed over the last few yrs. And how many were actually tested for bTB?!
There are many ways in which people can help to protect badgers, our wildlife. At present badger setts are being recorded and mapped out. From now on it’s going to be rather different as we won’t necessarily be guarding a particular sett or group of setts as cull areas are growing and spreading further. But it doesn’t mean we won’t have an impact.
The campaign needs people who not only care for badgers but all our wildlife, foxes in particular in many areas and animals snared and trapped to ‘protext’ animals that humans wish to kill for sport. Hunt terrier men, unspeakably cruel and sadistic, who dig out foxes who have gone to ground. They go out before the hunt begins and block badger setts so that hunted foxes cannot escape from the hounds.
Over the last 5 yrs I’ve learnt so much. The Tory party represent mainly the wealthy and this includes landowners, and so it is they who have engineered the licensing via Natural England which makes the killing of badgers legal. Otherwise the horrible irony is that they are a protected animal!
If you want to stand up and protect wildlife there will be a way that you can help whoever you are. Although it all seems too hard to bear it is better to do something about it than nothing – everything we do adds up. I’ve met some lovely people along the way too and weve all learned from each other and supported one another. Being out for hours at night has been fantastic at times, tiring at others. Facing the shooters felt great, knowing that they had to break their guns and go. There are now many people quite expert in knowing how to do this work and they are ready to help new areas and do what they can in their own local areas on a more ‘everyday’ basis.
I have no regrets at all… but know I would have if I hadn’t done my bit. Hope lies ahead and maybe one day we’ll be rid of the Tory party and more and more people will have been awakened to what goes on in the world… and, most importantly, what they can do about it.”