Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 12:49 UK

Arrests over Pembrokeshire badger cull 'interference'

Prepartions to cull badgers are now underway in Wales

Police say three men arrested in north Pembrokeshire during preparations to start a badger cull have now been released.

Dyfed-Powys Police made the arrests on Tuesday, over claims two had been interfering with the pilot scheme and the other over a theft allegation.

But officers say that after inquiries no further action will be taken.

The badger cull has been ordered by the Welsh Assembly Government as part of pilot project to cut bovine TB.

However, the scheme has faced vocal opposition from some campaigners, including the Badger Trust, who recently lost a legal bid to halt the project.

The cull area covers 288 sq km (111 sq mile) of north Pembrokeshire, and a small part of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

The assembly government has said these areas had "endemic" TB infections, with 42% of cattle owners having at least one case of the disease in their herd since 2003.

Under the legislation brought in ordering the badger cull, it was made a criminal offence to "obstruct or interfere with anything being done or used in connection with the treatment or destruction of badgers".

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys Police said on Wednesday: "People have the right to peacefully protest at locations where it is safe and when it is lawful and proportionate and in connection with a legitimate aim.

"Dyfed-Powys Police aim to prevent crime and disorder, but when it occurs we provide a proportionate, effective and timely response."

Legal challenge

A spokesperson for the assembly government said: "Bovine TB is a crisis we have to deal with and we need to co-ordinate activity effectively.

"The Welsh Assembly Government has the legal powers to access land to implement our badger control strategy.

"A very small minority of land owners are continuing to refuse access to the land. We have continued to engage with them including meeting some of the individuals concerned.

"Our main aim is to lawfully carry out this work to identify where badger setts are in the area."

The Badger Trust is set to challenge the earlier court ruling allowing the cull to go ahead, and has already sought leave to appeal the judgement.

The chairman of the Badger Trust, David Williams, said: "This case has raised matters of much wider public importance - in both legal and non-legal terms.

"The judgment in the judicial review could be interpreted as giving a green light to the killing of all sorts of wildlife across England and Wales on the flimsiest of evidence of any benefit in the form of disease prevention."

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