Have we got to the stage where the bovine TB eradication policy is seriously impinging on civil liberties?
1 Jul 2010, 7:11 PM
Civil liberties are the basic rights and freedoms that protect an individual. They prevent the state from abusing power or intruding in citizens’ lives unnecessarily. Legislation can help keep people safe, but excessive legislation can erode civil liberties. We believe the current eradication policy for bovine TB is a clear example of how a policy has grown to adversely effect an ever increasing number of people.
As Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister) has said 'the state has crept further and further into people’s homes and their private lives under the cover of pretending to act in our best interest. That needs to change'. Health Check Wales and the infamous Pembrokeshire badger cull are examples of how civil liberties and the rights of the individual are being ignored.
Clegg tells us that there will be a new and 'radically different' approach as an attempt to redress the balance between the citizen and the state. He says it is not for Government to tell people 'how to live their lives' and that civil liberties should be restored and laws stifling businesses abandoned. The bovine TB eradication policy is an ideal place to start.
Clegg has said, 'we are taking an unprecedented step. Based on the belief that it is people, not policy-makers, who know best, we are asking the people of Britain to tell us how you want to see your freedom restored. We are calling for your ideas on how to protect our hard-won liberties and repeal unnecessary laws. And we want to know how best to scale back excessive regulation that denies businesses the space to innovate. We’re hoping for virtual mailbags full of suggestions. Every single one will be read, with the best put to Parliament. It is a radically different approach. One based on trust. Because it isn’t up to government to tell people how to live their lives.'
Examples of legislation include: laws that have eroded civil liberties, regulations that stifle the way charities and businesses work and laws that are not required and which are likely to see law-abiding citizens criminalised.
Ministers will decide which laws will be revoked and they will then be included in a new Freedom Bill, which will be unveiled in the autumn. Clegg added, 'Over the last decade, thousands of new rules and regulations have amassed on the statute book. And it is our liberty that has paid the price. Under the cover of pretending to act in our best interest, the state has crept further and further into people’s homes and their private lives. That intrusion is disempowering. It needs to change.'
5 Oct 2013, 10:12 AM
A GOVERNMENT farm inspector who tweeted comments about the badger cull has been sacked after the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) complained to ministers about her views.
Janice Holland had worked for the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) since 2001, visiting farms to ensure claims for agricultural grants were not being falsified. She made a series of remarks on Twitter suggesting she had serious concerns about animal welfare and that the cull was poorly conceived and executed.
Ms Holland, who has 22 years' service with government farming agencies, referred to Peter Kendall, the union's president, as "Kim Jong Kendall" – a reference to the North Korean leader and a name already in use among anti-badger-cull protesters.
Defra said the NFU was a "stakeholder" of Defra and the RPA, meaning staff should not criticise it in public. Labour MP Barry Sheerman said the sacking was "shameful".
Having a professional background in conservation she had serious concerns about animal welfare. “I thought the culls would not be effective in reducing TB [tuberculosis] in cattle,” she wrote in an online posting.
Holland said she could not discuss her work or dismissal. However, in her tweets she also claimed that farmers often failed to follow basic biosecurity precautions designed to stop the spread of TB, especially at shows and markets where cattle are sold.
An NFU member showed her tweets to Adam Quinney, the NFU vice-president, who complained to Defra, where it was raised with Bronwyn Hill, the permanent secretary, and Owen Paterson, the secretary of state. An email sent to the RPA by the NFU made further allegations, including the suggestion that Holland had used farm visits to glean information about the cull and that she had helped transport anti-cull protesters to cull areas.
It said: “Janice Holland, who works out of Defra in Taunton for the RPA, has had her name passed on to me as someone who is involved with the anti-cull movement, searching for signs of culling preparations on farm while doing farminspections, transporting antis to cull areas.”
A subsequent disciplinary hearing ruled all the allegations to be unfounded, apart from the fact that she had posted her views on Twitter. The NFU’s direct involvement in the sacking of a longserving civil servant will raise morequestions over its “excessive” influence on ministers.
Holland’s posts were indiscreet. Her commentsincluded describing the NFU as “bullying idiots” and “Tory twats”. However, it emerged in her disciplinary hearing that many of the tweets had been in response to comments directed at Holland by a supporter of the badger cull calling himself Yokel Peasant and using the Twitter tag @rantingratman. His real name is Matt Thomlinson; he lives on the SomersetWiltshire border not far from Holland and works in pest control.
It is understood that Holland’s exchanges with Thomlinson were reported to the NFU hierarchy by another NFU member and that in Holland’s subsequent statement to the hearing, she claimed to have been provoked by Yokel Peasant. Thomlinson could not be contacted for comment.
She is also understood to have told the hearing that she “bitterly regretted debating the emotive issue of the badger cull on Twitter” and airing her personal views, adding, “I have been very naive.”
Her contrition was to no avail. On September 18 she was dismissed without notice and with immediate effect.
Damian Carrington of the Guardian says' Policing the controversial badger culls in England is undoubtedly a tough job, with two bitterly opposed sides colliding each night in the dark lanes and fields of Gloucestershire and Somerset. But are the police getting the balance right? I'd ask you to consider the new evidence below.'
He goes on to say:
'When I revealed recently that police in Gloucestershire had told an anti-cull protester that his details would be passed on to the National Farmers Union, which represents the culling companies, a lawyer from civil liberties experts Bindmans told me this was "highly questionable". Gwendolen Morgan said: "Since when did the police become the enforcers of the NFU's civil injunction?"'
'Gloucestershire police told me that the officer should have said "we can pass information on to the NFU", rather than "we will". But I can now confirm that details are indeed being passed on because I have seen a letter from the NFU's lawyers Foot Anstey to a protester arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass, but "de-arrested" shortly afterwards.'
'The two-page letter warns the protester about the injunction's prohibitions on flashing torches and blowing vuvuzelas and adds "any person in breach may face commital for contempt of court, a criminal offence, and suffer a fine or a custodial sentence".'
'Police officers in Gloucestershire were also handing out NFU-produced leaflets warning protesters about the civil injunction, but Somerset police told me they were not doing this. Instead, it turns out, in Somerset they are reading the leaflet out, as the video above shows. The officer says he is issuing a "warning" of the civil injunction's existence.'
'A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police told me: "As part of our no-surprises approach, if someone's activities may breach the injunction we may briefly explain about the injunction to help people protest responsibly."'
'On the passing of protester details to the NFU, a Gloucestershire police spokesman said: "We make our judgment based on whether there is a pressing social need. The NFU has been granted this injunction at the high court because it is believed that those carrying out the cull are at risk of harassment. Therefore if we review an incident and suspect a breach of the injunction has taken place we will pass details to the NFU." I asked how many times details have been passed on by Gloucestershire police: four times so far.'
'Are the police simply helping people protest responsibly, as the vast majority already do, or are they acting, as some protesters allege, as a "private security force" for the NFU? It's a tricky question and I will let you decide for yourself.'
The Badger Trust is relieved that lawful protest against the pointless Badger cull has been protected by the High Court.
The NFU stated in open court that they have no objection to lawful and proper protest about the cull and were not seeking to restrict this. Their initial application was not accepted and after hearing argument by the Badger Trust a far more reasoned and balanced order was made protecting the rights of the Badger Trust and others to campaign for a change in this foolhardy policy. The Badger Trust will continue to highlight the folly of this policy that will neither reduce TB in a meaningful way or help the badger population.
The Badger Trust was joined to proceedings as an interested party and was there to assist the court. Mr Justice Turner confirmed the importance of protecting the right to protest and made an order against harassment of those involved in the cull and was keen to protect people’s homes.
The Badger Trust in no way supports unlawful protest. The order is therefore a welcome confirmation that those concerned about this senseless cull of badgers can continue to make their voice heard. The Trust hopes the government will soon realise the pointless nature of this cull and engage in more helpful methods of TB control rather than killing badgers”
Press Release from Badger Trust today.
23 Aug 2013, 5:04 PM
An injunction has been granted to restrict people protesting against the badger cull. The NFU applied for the injunction, claiming some farmers have been intimidated and harassed and therefore need protection.
The High Court ruling means no protest will be allowed to take place within 100m of the homes, and within 25m of businesses, of anyone involved. I wonder how this will work though as we thought the locations of the farms involved were being kept confidential?
Lawful protest against the badger cull will still be allowed. The High Court in London granted the injunction after several hours of negotiations over the wording of the injunction between protesters and the NFU.
NFU president Peter Kendall said after the hearing that the injunction was intended to prevent "unacceptable incidents of harassment", and not to stop lawful protest.
Jay Tiernan, who was named in court as a representative of the Coalition of Badger Action Groups, said the ruling would not stop protests.
The injunction includes provisions preventing protesters entering private land without consent. Anyone found to be in breach could face contempt of court proceedings.
The so called 'pilot culls (although others are already being planned for next year) will run over a six-week period ans more than 5,000 badgers could be killed. The cull will involve the animals being shot in the open by marksmen using high-velocity rifles. The badgers will not be trapped in cages first.
Info from: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-23791222
22 Aug 2013, 1:48 PM
The NFU (National Farmers' Union) has applied for an injunction against people opposed to the badger cull. The application, which runs to more than 400 pages, is due to be heard by the High Court TODAY.
If granted, it would make it illegal for protesters to enter land belonging to farmers who are taking part in the cull. However, it is of concern that the application, as currently worded, could prevent peaceful protest which is surely a freedom that is an important right in a democratic society?
20 Jul 2012, 10:42 AM
According to a Pembrokeshire Against the Cull update the controversial Order allowing access on to peoples' land in Pembrokeshire for the purpose of culling badgers is no more.
Following a meeting of PAC key players with John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, and Christiane Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales earlier this week - they were assured the Order which allowed the culling of badgers in theIntensive Action Area has been revoked. . Apparently it was revoked on 15th June.
The public are supposedly being consulted and can participate in the consultation process - see link below http://new.wales.gov.uk/consultations/environmentandcountryside/consbadgercontrol/;jsessionid=Sn6kMYXG2xvP8Qxxk1mst7QzdTDL3K9m4vQXFm6tyJyFQLzC6hZF!-42672990?lang=en
The response reproduced below from Pembrokeshire Against the Cull sums the situation up nicely.
PAC Response "This morning the Minister for Rural Affairs Elin Jones announced new plans to proceed with a badger cull in the area previously identified in North Pembrokeshire and adjacent areas as the IAPA. Now to be known as the Intensive Action Area (IAA) a map clearly defines the boundary where the cull is proposed. A 12 week Consultation period launched this morning focuses on a draft order that would give the Government the same draconian powers of access to carry out culling as before and also includes the option of shooting badgers that are not caged.
Pembrokeshire Against the Cull is very disappointed that despite its best efforts no unbiased consideration has been given to vaccination as an alternative even though this is being seriously considered in England. Civil Liberties likewise have been given short shrift, as the Order will make it illegal to prevent operatives from accessing land to carry out a cull.
The arrogance of a government that thinks it can continue to try to impose such a law on those who have different beliefs, ways of life and livelihoods, is beyond belief, livelihoods that rely on the goodwill of its customers such as tourism and the many farm producers who market on the basis of a sustainable countryside! In England there is no mention of forcing landowners to participate in a cull, but here in Wales we will again be faced with contractors and police forcing entry regardless of the wish and belief of the landowner. We will have to be a very strong opposition indeed, this time if we are to have any hope of influencing this nightmare scenario.
We have always acknowledged the difficulties bovine TB poses to cattle farmers. However we also know that culling increases the prevalence of TB in badgers and increases the chance of passing TB on to cattle, even with reduced numbers.
Vaccination on the other hand has a real chance of improving the health of badgers and therefore cattle - a recent report that indicated vaccination reduced TB in badgers more quickly than culling has been removed from the DEFRA website. Vaccination would also not require the breaches of civil liberties called for in this cull.
Vaccination has been dismissed by WAG, not so in England where they want to see it as one of the options available. What a disappointment, our Government has let us down badly. PAC is holding a supporters meeting at Newport Memorial Hall on Thursday at 7pm September 23rdthis week, all those horrified at this latest move are welcome."
Celia Thomas on behalf of Pembrokeshire Against the Cull