Fighting the Cull Part 2 – Getting Organised

Posted: April 14, 2014 in Environmental
Tags: , , , ,

While we wait on any legal challenges from the Badger Trust regarding the continuation of the NFU sponsored killing exercise we have to continue to assume the worst and get organised. Rumours regarding the defaulting on license requirements set by Natural England will continue to appear right up to the time the first (next) shot is taken so making sure we’re ready and able to counter that is paramount. In this article I’ll go through the groups you can join, what they set out to achieve and who to contact. I’ll also go through your basic requirements of clothing and kit to help keep you in the fields and effective.

Groups in the Zones

The first thing you need to do once you’ve made that decision to take direct action is ask yourself a simple question. “How far am I prepared to go?”

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Everyone has a place and everyone can make a difference. The simple fact is without those people staying at home and donating money to the cause it would be very difficult to fund the direct action in the fields. However we’re now concentrating on what you actually want to do once you’re out there and this is purely down to personal choice. Everyone’s situation is different. There’s no prejudice in saving our wildlife (unless you’re a sexist, homophobic fascist) so don’t think you won’t be welcome. So assuming the question has been asked and answered honestly then let’s have a look at which groups will suit your level of involvement.

Wounded Badger Patrol

As the name implies these people walk footpaths throughout the night in the zones looking for badgers which have been shot and injured so they can take them to the nearest wildlife hospital for treatment. However in the real world it’s a lot more than that. Run by both GABS (Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting), Somerset Against the Cull and now jointly part of SWAB (South West Alliance for Badgers) these organisations stick within the law and exercise their right to access public footpaths at any time of day or night. Many of these footpaths will take them close to setts and in the direct line of fire of any shooters. They wear Hi Viz jackets and make themselves obvious in the hope any wildlife will have long since left the area and shooters will, under the license stipulations set by DEFRA be forced to cease any activity in the area. Of course that’s not always the case and several incidents have occurred where cullers have broken best practice guidelines however that shouldn’t put you off. They also have “sett sitters”, people who will locate themselves in the vicinity of a sett, usually doing a shift of several hours and thus denying that area for shooting purposes and generally acting as static guardians. All of these methods are totally lawful and effective. I would often talk to OAPs at all times of night, they’d be wrapped up in warm clothes, have deck chairs, sandwiches and a flask and show a dedication to duty of which I’d be proud. So if you can read a map and like walking in the countryside with a minimal chance of getting arrested (you’ll still get some intimidation and threats from both the Police and Farmers) then this could be the option for you, you might also get to meet Brian May or Bill Oddie! Click on the links below to find out more.


Hunt Saboteurs

If the WBPers are the political arm of the Badger Army then the hunt sabs are the storm troopers. The simple fact is they made a huge difference in the fight the first time round and they’ll be at the front line once again if it all kicks off. With groups descending on the zones from all over the country and putting in the hours many simply couldn’t the sabs will push the limits of legality to be on the side of the morally and ethically right. They will if necessary do what needs to be done to save lives and that has been the ethos behind the Hunt Saboteur organisation for decades; non-violent, direct action. The downside is you’ll get hassled relentlessly by the police, treated like an enemy of the state with a dirty bomb in your back pack and threatened with violence by lots of tweed wearing, 4×4 driving yokels who think they’re tough. However the rewards can be immense. The proactive nature of their particular brand of direct action means maximum effectiveness against the culling operations. Trouble spots can be negated in minutes through a single phone call as sabs on quick reaction arrive at the scene. If you’re relatively fit, comfortable dealing with the constant police attention and are willing to go that extra mile to save our wildlife these are definitely the guys for you. There are sab groups throughout the country and there’ll no doubt be one near you to get involved with however you’d still be more than welcome to contact the badger office at the time and take instructions directly from them.

sab the cull


What kit do I need?

Clothing – Anyone who’s spent any amount of time outdoors will most likely have some, if not all the necessary clothing. Obviously decent clothing is a must; sturdy, rip-stop trouser are ideal with army combats a favourite, the army use them for a reason and the same rules apply. It can still get quite cold at night even in the summer so a warm fleece or jacket will be up there on the list along with something that’ll keep you dry if it rains. It can get very miserable indeed being wet and cold so staying dry and warm is imperative and you won’t save any lives by staying indoors or sitting in the car. Most of the top brands of outdoor clothing companies will have something to offer however I can personally recommend Paramo clothing. It may be expensive but it’s in a league of its own for performance. Another visit to the army surplus can also provide dividends. Good quality military issue waterproof jackets can be had for less than £50 and you get to pretend you’re in the SAS. Tough, hard wearing and comfortable footwear is a must. Wellies can be used at a push however they don’t give the required support when traversing difficult terrain. Hiking or security forces type boots are ideal but make sure they’re well broken in and you’re happy to spend long hours in them. Good quality thick socks will also help, look after your feet and they’ll look after you. I tend to take at least two pairs with me plus a change of clothing for the drive home as I live over 100 miles from the Gloucestershire zone and like to be comfortable in that time.

Torches – A good quality torch with a readily available supply of batteries. I personally carry a Maglite 4D which I’ve adapted to use a Cree LED. LED’s are brighter and use less power than standard bulbs so it’s a no brainer to go for this type. On one foggy night in the zone last winter it looked like I was using a light sabre! The Maglite may be big and heavy but it’s also a handy tool for self-defence should you need it. The injunction taken out the by NFU stated that torches had to be less than 200 lumens but that’s pretty damn bright and I’d like to see someone prove how many lumens a torch is producing in the field so it’s not something I’d worry too much about. I also carry another smaller but equally bright torch as back-up plus spare batteries. As mentioned in my previous installment a pocket UV torch is always handy to check for smart marking.


The basic kit (bolt croppers optional)

The basic kit

Maps – Make sure you have all the areas you need. I printed off images from the web and laminated them to make them last longer as my OS map became increasingly dog eared. Laminating will also keep them dry and stop them going soggy and falling apart. If you know how to use one take a compass as well. Some smart phones will have apps with maps and location so download the appropriate one for your device and know how to use it. Being lost isn’t going to help anyone and the countryside looks a lot different at night.

Night Vision and FLIR – If you’re lucky enough to own such devices then they can be life savers and really give you an edge. FLIR can spot both animals and people regardless of weather and light conditions but are very expensive, night vision ideally needs to be generation 2+ (again expensive) to be effective at reasonable ranges however lower gen kit can be used.

Cameras & Video – A video camera is a must. This will keep you safe and will also hopefully keep the boys in blue from being excessive. Mobiles phones can also be used for both stills and video although their performance not up to a dedicated device. Remember to record everything of interest, stop and searches by the police, evidence of suspected illegal activity or items which may be of intelligence purposes. My personal choice is the Panasonic HC-V520, full HD, a big 50x optical zoom and good image stabilization, retails for around £250 but any of the top brands for a similar price will do an equal job.

Misc – If you’re feeling particularly rebellious then a nice set of bolt croppers for dealing with anything that needs cutting up. If you didn’t read my previous blog entry then now is probably a good time to do it and the same disclaimer applies. I’m told Wickes supply a perfectly serviceable set for £20 that even comes in a nice shade of dark green. Always take a note pad and pen/pencil. This can help with noting co-ordinates, taking details and anything else which can be used to your advantage. I also carry a box of surgical latex gloves and of course a phone, make sure it’s charged!

Food – Make sure you can stay active and useful by having the right food to chomp your way through. High calorie energy bars full of seeds and nuts and chocolate are good for keeping you going and raising your spirits along with a hot drink, a cuppa really perks you up at stupid o’clock in the morning when you’ve been up all night so a flask in the car is a very welcome sight. It’s also advisable to eat a good meal before you head out.

In the next instalment I’ll try and offer some advice on dealing with the police and what to do if the worst should happen and you get your collar felt. This weekend I’ll be sett surveying in the Gloucestershire zone and attending the March on Saturday. See you there.

  1. Thea Holly says:

    Thank you for all of this guidance.

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