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Activist's Harsh Sentence Shines Spotlight on "Medieval" Badger Cull

A leader in the fight to end the slaughter of wild badgers has received an extraordinary sentence and fine for breaching a court order that curbed his right to free speech. While a setback on many levels, the ruling promises to mobilize the large community of activists determined to shut down what they say is a medieval and ineffective approach to fighting tuberculosis among intensively farmed beef and dairy cattle.

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January 21, 2015 by Donny Moss

Jay Tiernan, a leader in the fight to stop the killing of wild badgers in England, has received a six month suspended jail sentence and up to $83,000 in fines for breaching a court order brought by cattle farmers who support the "badger cull." According to The Guardinan, "the breaches ranged from filming someone involved in the cull" to "protesting outside an National Farmers' Union (NFU) office wearing a FCK NFU T-shirt" to "failing to pass on details of the injunction to other protesters." Notably, the judge said that Mr. Tiernan is "a man of good character" and that his "breaches did not involve any violence or damage to property."

While the ruling represents a serious infringement on free speech and imposes an insurmountable financial burden on Mr. Teirnan, it does shine a much-needed international spotlight on the badger cull and is serving to unify the large community of people who oppose the killing.

Supporters of the badger cull claim that the extermination is necessary to control bovine tuberculosis (TB), which, they say, threatens their cattle.
Opponents of the cull argue that killing is the wrong approach for many reasons:

A large, scientific study has demonstrated that killing badgers makes "no meaningful contribution to the control of bovine TB."

Wildlife should not have to pay the price for cheap food produced through environmentally destructive factory farming, which is how TB was introduced to wildlife.

More frequent testing of cattle and cattle movement controls are addressing the problem in neighboring Wales.

Badgers are a protected species in England, and the government-sanctioned campaign to slaughter them in certain areas has generated backlash not only from veteran animal rights activists and "hunt saboteurs" but also from people who live in or near the killing zones.

In 2013, a reporter with the Guardian filmed Mr. Tiernan "engaging in guerrilla-style tactics" to prevent marksmen from shooting badgers. He also speaks to less confrontational protesters who are stunned by the high level of secrecy surrounding the cull.

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