A HIGH court judge has granted an injunction restricting the activities of certain anti-badger cull protesters.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) applied for the injunction following concerns about farmers and landowners in and around the pilot zones, in West Somerset and Gloucestershire, being harassed and threatened ahead of the cull.

The decision came after several hours in court, during which the scope of the original NFU application was reduced in response to representations from campaign groups including the Badger Trust.

In highlighting the importance of the right to lawful protest, Mr Justice Turner amended the order to ensure the injunction applies only to certain named anti-cull protestors.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “This has never been about preventing people from holding legitimate and legal protests.

“This injunction is about stopping those intent on totally unacceptable incidents of harassment and threats made against a number of farmers and landowners by those opposed to the badger cull.”

The government’s plans to carry out a badger cull in two pilot zones in a bid to combat the effects of bovine TB on the farming industry have divided opinion.

Mr Kendall added: “For beef and dairy farmers dealing with TB on their farms, these badger culls are an essential part in the fight against this terrible disease.

“While we recognise that not everyone agrees with the government’s TB eradication policy, and the need to cull badgers to start to reduce this disease in cattle, we do acknowledge their legitimate right to hold peaceful protests.

“What we cannot condone are the actions being used by extreme activists designed to harass, intimidate and threaten others.

“I hope this injunction will mark an end to the feeling among some groups of people that threats of violence and a campaign of harassment and intimidation are acceptable ways to make your voice heard in a democratic society.

“The families who have been targeted will be grateful for the court’s decision. I ask for the public to continue to back British farming during this difficult time.”

The Badger Trust, which was represented in court, also welcomes the news.

Chairman David Williams said: “The Badger Trust is relieved that lawful protest against the pointless Badger cull has been protected by the High Court.

“The NFU’s initial application was not accepted and after hearing argument by the Badger Trust a far more reasoned and balanced order was made protecting the rights of the Badger Trust and others to campaign for a change in this foolhardy policy.

“The Badger Trust will continue to highlight the folly of this policy that will neither reduce TB in a meaningful way nor help the badger population.

“The Badger Trust in no way supports unlawful protest. The order is therefore a welcome confirmation that those concerned about this senseless cull of badgers can continue to make their voice heard.

“The trust hopes the government will soon realise the pointless nature of this cull and engage in more helpful methods of TB control rather than killing badgers.”