Badger cull coming to Herefordshire

badger_2369182bThe controversial badger cull is coming to Herefordshire and it could start within a matter of days.

Around 4,000 badgers have been killed, either by high powered rifles or with shotguns after being caught in traps, since the culls began in Gloucestershire and Somerset during the autumn of 2013.

Last year the culling was extended to a third zone in north Dorset. This year the cull is expected to be extended to five new areas at the start of September, with badgers in south Herefordshire, areas of north and south Devon, Cornwall and west Dorset joining others in the firing line.

The government says that the culling is part of its 25-year plan to eradicate bovine TB, which it and the National Farmers’ Union claims is spread to cattle by badgers. Opponents however, claim that the killing is not helping to reduce the spread of bTB and may in fact be making it worse, and that the cull has the aim of reducing the badger population rather than limiting the spread of the disease, as they are not tested for bTB before they are shot.
Initially due to begin in Autumn 2012, the ‘trial’ badger culls have faced a number of setbacks along the way. The start was postponed until 2013 after DEFRA, the government body overseeing the cull, admitted that they had wrongly estimated the number of badgers in the zones.

When the first year of culling did get underway it failed to go to plan, with the cullers falling significantly short of their target of 70% of badgers killed in both zones. In an attempt to make sure they hit their target, it was revised down and DEFRA extended the cull, but despite this the cullers again failed to reach this.

Protesters were blamed by some. Their presence in parts of the cull zones meant that the cull contractors were unable to operate as they had planned, with it also reported that hundreds of cages used to trap the badgers had been destroyed or had gone missing.

The independent expert panel, which was appointed by DEFRA to monitor the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the cull, found the first year had failed to be effective and that it was inhumane, with over 5% of the badgers shoot taking over five minutes to die.

For the second year of culling, the independent panel was scrapped and since then the culls have carried on much in the same light. Protesters have continued to expose what they claim are a number of breaches of the cullers own rules, including marksmen shooting while in close proximity to protesters and failing to retrieve badgers that had been shot but had not died instantly.

Between 2012–2015 it is estimated that the badger culls cost the taxpayer over £16m, with the figure set to rise dramatically as it is extended this year.

Despite the government’s insistence to carry on with the culls, and successful lobbying from the NFU for this, the badger cull continues to face huge opposition from a number of camps and for a whole host of reasons.

In 2012 Lord Krebs, a scientific advisor who oversaw a previous badger cull in the 1990s, described the plan to cull as ‘crazy,’ saying that it would deliver little or no advantage to the bTB situation and advising that the routes of increased biosecurity and vaccination are instead used to try to tackle the disease. Many have also warned of the effects of what is known as the perturbation effect, when badgers fleeing the cull areas leave the territories which they usually inhabit, potentially spreading bTB to new areas. A recent study on contact between badgers and cattle claims that the animals do not spread the disease through direct contact, as previously thought, with lead author Prof. Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London urging a rethink on government advice to farmers and its current disease control policy.

Organisations ranging from the RSPCA to the Wildlife Trusts and Hunt Saboteurs Association have called for the cull to be ended on animal welfare grounds, with the latter taking an active roll in trying to sabotage the culls, freeing badgers from traps and trying to prevent marksmen from going about their business.

There have been around 40 protest marches in towns and cities across the country in the last few years, including the march in Hereford back in November. A large, grassroots anti-cull movement has sprung up around the country, particularly with ‘Wounded Badger Patrols’ being set up locally to walk the fields and footpaths where the culls are happening, a way for many people to have a presence in the zones regardless of previous experience.

There is plenty that can be done to help protect the badgers in Herefordshire, from keeping an eye on your local badger sett, reporting on any suspicious activity or tip-offs that you’ve heard from people in your local area, getting out in the fields and lanes of the county as part of a badger patrol, to raising awareness and funds so that the costs of petrol and equipment can be covered and more people hear about the slaughter taking place on our doorstep. If you want to act for Herefordshire’s badgers, now is the time! Follow some of the links below to see how you can help.

For more information
Badger Action Network
No Herefordshire Cull
Stop the Cull

Food Donations from Hereford arrive in Calais

Food clothing and other essential supplies continue to pour into to Calais from across the UK, and the people of Herefordshire are doing their bit to help those living in the Jungle refugee camp.

Calais Jungle Refugee Camp

Last week a van full of donated food and water left Hereford for the long journey down to Folkstone. This is the second time donations have been taken directly from Hereford to Calais. The Hecklers own Luthur Blissett went along to assist with driving.

All the food donations that are going from Hereford to Calais are being packed and organised via the Facebook group Food Donations for Calais and Dunkirk, Hereford Group. For this trip more than a quarter of a tonne of food donations were loaded into the van.

The rest of the load was bottled water kindly donated by a local mineral water company. In all a tonne of supplies left Hereford for the long drive down to the South East. The diesel and channel tunnel costs were covered by donations by people in Hereford and Ross-on-Wye.

After arriving in Calais late afternoon, a couple of hours were spent talking to local people to get their views on the crisis. Unfortunately for us the hotel we stayed in was full of French pigs. The copper we spoke to said of the migrants “We don’t want them here. We need to change the system so we can get rid of them”.

We were expecting an equally negative opinion from local people but were pleasantly surprised. Local bar owner Pascal told us that the main problem is that tourism in Calais has collapsed. English people no longer stop there on their way home. But he said many people are sympathetic to the plight of the refugees, and they are happy to help in any way they can.

Eric, a resident of Paris who was visiting Calais, said he knew who was blame for the crisis. “David Cameron, he’s the one who can sort this out. But he prefers to play politics with these people.”

After spending the night in Calais we delivered our van load of supplies to the warehouse in an industrial estate on the west side of Calais. A hive of activity, staffed by young British volunteers, they were very grateful for our delivery. We were told that the food and water would be sorted into individual food parcels and distributed within days.

Children in Calais Jungle

Children at the camp in 2015. Photo by Philippe Huguen

It was heartening to see the amount of tents, sleeping bags and clothing that had been sorted. Social media would have you believe that most people in the UK are antagonistic towards the refugees, but on the evidence we saw, many people give a shit and are donating a lot of essential stuff.

And it’s a good thing too. The charity Help Refugees estimates that there are over 500 unaccompanied children living in the Jungle. While British politicians argue about their tax returns, innocent children, many of whom have a right to come to the UK, are stuck in squalor and dependant on hand outs. It’s an utter disgrace but at least we can do something to help.

Once again ordinary people show that direct action can work when the politicians fail. Solidarity is alive and well and people in Hereford are playing their part.

These trips from Hereford to Calais will continue until the refugee crisis ends, and lets be honest that won’t be any time soon.

To make food donations, please click here or leave a comment below.

Luther Blissett

For more info visit –

Help Refugees




Racism Overshadows 6 Nations Rugby

“Anti-gypsy bigotry is the last accepted form of racism.” This comment was made by the Diversity Unit at Herefordshire Council. Unfortunately the recent goings on in international rugby shows this to be true.


Joe Marler, what a prick.

England player Joe Marler’s ‘gypsy boy’ comment to opposition player Samson Lee should not be underplayed. Let’s be brutal here, if Marler had called someone a nigger, paki or faggott then he would quite rightly have been severely punished. But the mainstream attitude to ant-gypsy racism isn’t given equal importance.

Under the Race Relations Act, gypsies and travellers are recognised as ethnic minorities who have the right to protection from discrimination.

The comment has been written off as ‘banter’ by Samson Lee. An opinion shared by Wales coach Warren Gatland. But the damage has already been done. The comment was heard by millions of people on live TV or replayed on YoutTube. This will only back up the attitude of people who are happy to use offensive terms like ‘pikey’.

Rugby has always sold itself as a full contact sport with respect at its core. Respect for officials and respect for the opposition. Well we’ll remember this nasty incident next time someone tries to claim that rugby has the moral high ground over football.

Six Nation Rugby’s decision not to take any action against Marler has done huge damage, not only to the sport but also to a large section of the community here in Herefordshire and beyond.

Fuck you Joe Marler and Fuck you Six Nationa Rugby.

Luther Blisset

Council cut Funding to Youth Homeless Charity

“Before being housed I was sofa surfing and putting myself in dangerous situations. I was going to kill myself if I could not be housed. SHYPP helped me to turn my life around and go to university.”

These are the words of Laura one of the many young people helped by local charity SHYPP (Supported Housing for Young Peoples Project). SHYPP works with 16 – 25 year olds across Herefordshire. They provide advice, housing, training and employment opportunities as a way of tackling youth homelessness. SHYPP also provides a range of accommodation for young people including foyer accommodation, move on flats, shared houses and supported lodgings.

Unfortunately the importance of these services has been over looked by Herefordshire Council who revealed last week that they plan to cut their funding to SHYPP by 66%.

Herefordshire Council has already shown its utter disregard for young people when it closed the Youth Support Service. But further cuts like the ones proposed to SHYPP will leave young people without the support and advice that this service offers

These cuts will have a massive impact on the ability of SHYPP to help some of the most vulnerable people in Herefordshire.

“This is a significant cut for SHYPP and will put key areas of our service at risk.” Tracey Brumwell SHYPP Central Team Manager told the Heckler. “In particular they are proposing to de-commission our floating support service which is the key preventative work we do with young people, this is where we provide housing, benefits and debt support to young people across Herefordshire working to prevent them from becoming homeless. They are also proposing cuts to our foyer services.”

Campaigners are hoping that people will put pressure on their local councillor to reverse the decision and continue to support the vital service SHYPP provide. An online petition has been set up and can be accessed here.

For more information visit SHYPP’s facebook page here

Luther Blissett


The Powys Tax Rebellion

“I will find you and your money” announced Chancellor George Osbourne in 2011. He was speaking after negotiations with Swiss Banks about tackling tax avoidance. Tory millionaire Osbourne claimed that “Tax avoidance is morally repugnant.”

Of course he didn’t mean it.  Because while the most vulnerable in society are suffering massive cuts to their incomes, multinational corporate giants are still getting away with billions in unpaid tax.

According to Tax Research UK we lose out on over £120bn in tax each year, enough to clear the deficit that politicians keep banging on about. Companies like Asda, Google, Apple, eBay, Starbucks and Vodaphone pay minimal tax on their massive UK profits. Cafe Nero hasn’t paid any UK corporation tax since 2008!

All this tax avoidance is done legally using loopholes that allow companies to divert their money to other countries where tax levels are much lower. Successive governments have failed to close these loopholes preferring to blame the unemployed, refugees and the EU for our financial situation.

Now a group of Independent traders in Crickhowell have found another way to force politicians to act.  The group which includes the local coffee shop, bakery, optician, and book shop are exploiting the same tax loopholes by moving the town ‘offshore’.

“We were shocked to discover that the revenue generated by hard-working employees in these British high street chains isn’t declared”. Said Jo Carthew who runs Black Mountain Smokery in the town,” We do want to pay our taxes because we all use local schools and hospitals but we want a change of law so everyone pays their fair share.”

“Until now, these complicated offshore tricks have only been open to big companies who can afford the lawyers’ fees. But we’ve put our heads together, and worked out a way to mimic them.”

Everything the traders have proposed is legal and they have met with HMRC to discuss their plans.

Coffee shop owner Steve said “I have always paid every penny of tax I owe, and I don’t object to that. What I object to is paying my full tax when my big name competitors are doing the damnedest to dodge theirs.”

One of the town’s traders discovered that he paid seven times more in corporation tax than Facebook, which paid less than £5,000 in the UK last year!

They hope that their DIY tax avoidance scheme could go national and force politicians to act.

The story of the Powys tax rebellion is to be covered in a BBC documentary to be aired in early 2016.

Luther Blissett