The likely threats facing Westcountry farmers involved in the pending pilot cull of badgers were made plain yesterday after animal rights extremists were accused of targeting farmers in Gloucestershire with letters, e-mails and text messages.
The trial cull in West Gloucestershire has already been licensed while the shooting in West Somerset is expected to be given the go-ahead in the coming days.
If proved to be safe, humane and efficient over a period of six weeks, the cull could be expanded, and run for four years, to tackle the blight of bovine TB which sees more than 20,000 cattle slaughtered every year.
As the start date for the shooting nears, some farmers have already been targeted by activists.
Jan Rowe, a 67-year-old dairy farmer in the Cotswolds, is a nominal director of GlosCon, a company set up to carry out the cull, although his farm is not in the pilot area.
He said police had been called a number of times to collect evidence and were regularly checking up on the farm.
"It is veiled threats to make you feel worried. 'Watch out for your family, we know where you live', and threatening to demonstrate on the farm. It is unsettling," he said.
"The grandchildren come and stay — one is worried for family and other people living on the farm."
He added: "I have seen more police cars coming down the lane this week than in the last 10 years.
"Any extra cost to the taxpayer is down to protesters taking up police time. All the farmers are doing is carrying out a legal operation."
Ian Johnson, spokesman for the National Farmers' Union in the South West, condemned the threats to farmers as "totally misguided, irresponsible and stupid".
"There are a lot of misguided people who are stamping their feet and throwing their toys out of the pram when what is being done is right, albeit extremely difficult and unpleasant for everyone."
It has also emerged that a board advising the Government asked farmers and vets for ideas on alternative ways of dealing with bovine TB just days before the first licence was issued.
Badger culling alone would not win the war against the disease, the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England said.