An anti-cull group intends to blackmail landowners on whose land badgers are shot in the latest attempt to bring a halt to the trial.
With the long-awaited start date of June 1 having passed, the animals can now be shot by licensed marksmen at approved sites in Gloucestershire and West Somerset, in a pilot to halt bovine TB.
Jay Tiernan, a spokesman for Stop the Cull, said: “We are aiming to bring a stop to the cull and we are confident we can achieve that.
“In order to go ahead, the cull needs 70 per cent participation from landowners in the area so our plan is to put pressure on those landowners to stop them from taking part.”
He said tactics could involve infiltration of farms, hoax phone calls, playing loud heavy metal music to scatter badgers – and even blackmail.
Mr Tiernan added: “We are prepared to dig up the dirt on these people and expose them if they do not agree to stop culling on their land.
“We don’t want to be intimidating but we do want to put pressure on people and we are not afraid of taking these wealthy landowners on.”
In particular, the group says it has in recent weeks been creeping onto the 3,000-acre Forthampton Estate, near Tewkesbury, in a bid to find ways to persuade owner John Yorke to drop his support for the cull.
The group’s intentions were made clear as it was revealed that police from every force in the West Country would be contributing units to help with the massive security operation surrounding the G8 Summit later this month.
The pilot culls aim to ensure free-running badgers can be killed humanely, with marksmen observed by independent experts to check they are killing the protected animal swiftly, and post-mortem examinations carried out to assess speed of death.
They will also assess whether sufficient badgers can be killed in an area to have an effect in reducing TB in cattle, following a long-term study which found that culling 70 per cent of badgers in an area could reduce the disease in herds by 16 per cent.
The Government said the cull is necessary as part of efforts to stop increasing outbreaks of TB in dairy and beef herds, which saw 28,000 cattle slaughtered in England last year. Without action, infection and costs would continue to soar, officials said.
A poll released yesterday revealed that the public is divided on the issue of culling, with 34 per cent opposing the policy, and 29 per cent for it.
Police have said they will take action if any incidents of crime and disorder related to the cull are reported, but added that “anyone who wishes to protest peacefully and lawfully is able to do so.”
Saturday was a day of claim and counter-claim, as scientific and anecdotal evidence from both sides of the debate clashed on the first day of a six-month period during which badgers may be shot.
Thousands of people decked in black and white clothing have marched on Westminster to call for an end to plans for a badger cull.
Dorset-based rock star Brian May led around 2,000 animal welfare supporters – many wearing cardboard badger masks – as they chanted “stop the cull”.