Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Exeter at the weekend in a public show of opposition to the Government’s badger culling policy.
An estimated 500 people, some wearing badger masks and others holding placards, weaved their way through the city of Saturday afternoon in an event organised by Exeter March Against the Badger Cull and supported by national wildlife charities Care for the Wild and the Badger Trust.
Leading anti-cull spokesman Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust and policy advisor to Care for the Wild, said: “We had a great turn out of about 500-600 people and had some very good speakers.
“It is the 18th march we have had and they have all been extremely well attended with more and more people coming, and from all walks of life.
“The strength of support, I think, is in recognition of the concerns we have about the roll out of the cull to Dorset as well as the needed to stop the culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset.”
So far, Ministers have refused to confirm or deny reports that culls, part of the Government’s strategy to combat the scourge of bovine TB, are to restart this summer.
Reports that the shooting will be rolled out to Dorset are also, as yet, unconfirmed.
All sides are currently waiting for an independent expert report on the effectiveness of the pilot schemes to be published.
But Mr Dyer said the Badger Trust would seek a judicial review of the licences issued in Somerset and Gloucestershire which can run for another three years.
Mr Dyer said there had been “fundamental changes” in how the culls had operated in practice, with the widespread use of trapping, compared to the terms of the licences. Questions also remained over the humaneness of shooting.
“Free shooting of badgers has failed,” he added, “and the costs are extremely high. No-one can claim that it has been a success.
“They can’t just extend the licences on the current terms without having a review process and going back to public consultation.”
Further protest marchers are being planned in Dorchester on May 17 and in Gloucester on May 19.