WILDLIFE campaigners are planning to walk along footpaths in Gloucestershire looking for badgers which have been wounded but not killed as part of the controversial cull which came into force on Saturday.
Jeanne and Nick Berry, who run the anti-cull group Stroud 100, will walk along footpaths in the pilot cull zones looking for wounded badgers to try and save them.
"We can't stop the cull from taking place but if we see any wounded badgers then we will call the Vale Wildlife Centre near Tewkesbury which has agreed to collect any wounded badgers," said Mrs Berry.
The news comes after a freedom of information request has raised fears that badgers will endure suffering and horrific injuries during the cull.
Material released to Humane Society International/UK shows that the Government expects a number of badgers to experience massive bleeding, hyperventilation and shock, with some eventually dying of secondary infection or starvation.
In west Gloucestershire, the aim is to shoot up to 2,932 badgers in the first year of the cull. The other zone is in Somerset.
Labour has announced it will table an Opposition Day debate on the Government's plans for the cull today, Wednesday, in the hope that it will lead to a parliamentary vote.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said: "The Tory-led Government are pressing ahead with the free shooting of badgers despite leading scientists warning against this 'untested and risky approach'.
"Labour is calling a vote on the cull and we will be working with MPs from all parties to stop this crazy scheme.
"We need a science-led policy to manage cattle movements better and prioritise badger and cattle vaccination to tackle bovine TB instead of a cull."
While he welcomed the chance to debate the issue, Stroud's Conservative MP Neil Carmichael said he would vote in favour of the pilot culls.
"A three pronged attack has been agreed as the best approach to tackle the increasing problem of TB," said Mr Carmichael.
"The approach includes an increase in vaccination, further restrictions on cattle movement and a pilot cull in areas where TB is at its most serious."
Thousands of anti-cull campaigners, including the Berrys, attended a protest in London on Saturday to coincide with the start of the cull.
"We are now just waiting for the shooting to start," said Mrs Berry.
Natural England, the government body responsible for issuing cull licences, has said the exact locations of shootings must remain secret for security reasons - but Mrs Berry has warned this will put those out walking after dark at risk of injury or even death.
"Anyone walking their dog at night could be in serious danger if we are not warned by the police when the shooting is going to take place," she added.
Gloucestershire police has said that it is the responsibility of Defra and Natural England to determine the timing of the cull.
- STROUD-based wind energy business Ecotricity is the most recent company to support Team Badger's efforts to stop the cull.
- Team Badger is the name given to a group of organisations including Animal Aid, VIVA! and Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting which want alternatives options to the cull such as vaccination to be explored further.
- Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has been running a badger vaccination programme on seven of its nature reserves.
SUPERINTENDENT Jim McCarthy of Gloucestershire police has released a statement outlining the force's role in the cull.
"The cull is a Defra-managed issue under licence from Natural England and it will be up to both of them and the company licensed to undertake the cull to determine the timing of it," he said.
"Policing will be neutral and independent of any cull.
"We will deliver our statutory responsibilities which include dealing with any incidents of crime and disorder and ensuring that anyone who wishes to protest peacefully and lawfully is able to do so.
"We are committed to working with any groups or individuals who want to exercise their right to peaceful protest and we want to ensure there are no surprises from, or to, any party involved.
"To that end, we would ask any groups or individuals wishing to protest to contact us so that we can help make sure their protest is safe and lawful.
"For operational reasons, we will not go into details of our plans but we would like people in Gloucestershire to be reassured that we will continue to deliver an effective local policing service before, during and after the proposed cull.
"At this stage, it is not possible or appropriate to put a figure on any costs of policing for the proposed cull but we have been told that any additional policing costs will be met by the Home Office."