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Badger cull protesters hold vigil
Hundreds of anti-badger cull protesters have held candlelit processions in the countryside as they prepare to step up their tactics to fight against the imminent badger cull.
Campaigners in Minehead, Somerset, turned out in large numbers to protest against what they have called an "inhumane" measure.
Around 5,000 badgers are expected to be culled in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset over the next six weeks, where two pilot schemes are taking place in an attempt to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB).
Protesters believe the cull is beginning on Tuesday, and on Monday activists from campaign group Stop The Cull gathered in Gloucestershire to form a "wounded badger patrol".
On Monday night Somerset Badger Patrol organised a vigil event in Minehead against the cull. A statement on its Facebook page after the event said: "Over 200 people tonight at the procession, thank you all so much for coming... We fight on, knowing that we are right helps." Stop The Cull claimed on its Facebook page that more than 500 people turned out to protest at both sites on Monday night.
Campaigners have vowed to stop the cull going ahead, and there have already been clashes with police.
An anti-cull activist was arrested on Monday at a site belonging to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The man, named in reports as Jay Tiernan, who runs the Stop The Cull campaign, was chased on foot by police and arrested after climbing over a barbed wire fence into Aston Down in Stroud. He was arrested by Gloucestershire Police on suspicion of aggravated trespass at the site. He told ITV News that he was trying to gather photographic evidence after hearing reports that 200 "rusty cages" and "industrial-sized fridges" were being prepared to hold dead badgers.
On Thursday a High Court judge made an order to stop farmers involved in badger culls being harassed and abused. Mr Justice Turner granted an injunction at a High Court hearing in London after lawyers representing the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said farmers had been targeted.
The culls are taking place to combat the spread of bovine TB, which the NFU said led to the slaughter of 38,000 cattle last year. The cull was due to begin last autumn but was postponed while research continued into the population numbers in both areas. The Government said west Somerset had approximately 4,300 badgers, with west Gloucestershire's population put at 3,600. The aim is to kill 70% of the animals, with west Somerset being set a minimum target of 2,081 and a maximum of 2,162. West Gloucestershire was set a minimum of 2,856 and a maximum of 2,932.
The culls, which will be carried out annually for four years, last six weeks and are allowed to take place between June 1 and January 31. If they are successful in stopping the spread of bovine TB, they could be rolled out, saving millions in compensation to farmers.