Over recent years the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has granted several licences to allow the controlled culling of badgers in specific geographical areas to take place in order to manage and reduce the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis (TB), which is a highly infectious disease that results in thousands of cattle being slaughtered every year.
The badger cull is a DEFRA policy that is being implemented by private companies in Staffordshire in line with strict conditions under license by Natural England.
Operation Cobb is the name of Staffordshire Police’s operational policing response to the badger cull and focuses on the communities affected by the cull.
For operational reasons, we will not go into details of our plans but we want communities to be re-assured that we will continue to deliver an effective local policing service before, during and after the cull.
We understand that the badger cull is a sensitive issue which will divide opinion across Staffordshire and the rest of the UK. Operation Cobb, Staffordshire's policing response to the cull, will be independent, impartial, even-handed and fair to everyone, whatever their views, interest or involvement in the scheme.
We want to work with the communities affected by the cull and ensure we understand and respond to any policing concerns they have.
The badger cull is a DEFRA managed issue under licence from Natural England and it will be up to the operating companies to decide when it takes place under the terms of their licence. Our role is to provide a police response that is neutral and independent of any cull. We will be impartial, even-handed and fair to everyone, whatever their views, interest or involvement in the pilot scheme. We will work with those who wish to exercise their human rights to oppose the cull through peaceful and lawful protest and those undertaking the cull to enable them to carry out a lawful activity.
We will also mediate - when appropriate - with parties involved in protest issues, promote crime prevention and reduction, respond to assessed threats and evaluate any emerging risks, deal with firearms licensing issues required in law and be fair but firm and respond to any breach of the peace under common law. In the event of a major incident, we will coordinate a response with other agencies in line with civil contingency legislation and practice. We also have a responsibility to investigate any party for breaches of criminal law in a way that is proportionate, necessary and accountable.
Those licensed to cull badgers will be doing so legitimately, under a licence with strict conditions in place. They should be allowed to undertake lawful activity without fear of harm or intimidation. However, we have a role in enabling peaceful and lawful protest and are committed to working with any groups or individuals who want to exercise their right to do so. These freedoms are enshrined in Human Rights law but they are qualified and restrictions can be imposed in certain situations.
We would like to talk openly with any groups or individuals who wish to protest to ensure actions taken are lawful.
Information about the locations of the cull does not belong to the police so we are not in a position to share it with any third party. It is for the operating companies to determine where and when any cull starts and for them to consider whether they disclose this information.
We want to communicate with everyone, including those interested or involved in the cull. We would like to talk openly with all willing parties, whatever their views, interest or involvement with the cull so that there are no surprises about police activity. That means local communities, specific groups or individuals and the media.
We will also make efforts to reach people not interested in engaging directly with us. We will use a range of channels, including the Staffordshire Police website, meetings, news releases and social media. However, we will only comment on policing matters.
Although there is public concern about the use of such weapons, they are in the hands of people who are experienced in their use and are being used in our countryside on a daily basis. We have no reason to believe that there is or will be any greater risk to the public than at any other time.
It depends on their actions. We would prefer that people protest peacefully and lawfully so they don’t commit any offences. However, if people go onto private land they are trespassing. If they trespass with the intention of preventing any lawful activity taking place there, they may be guilty of aggravated trespass. Potentially, there are also offences of harassment and intimidation of people conducting a lawful activity, a host of wildlife crimes ranging from disturbing badgers to damaging Sites of Special Scientific Interest, as well as public order offences.
You have a right to protest as long as it is peaceful. By talking openly with us at an early stage, we can help you to understand what is and what isn’t acceptable. We are here to help but we also have the duty to protect, hence the need for us to engage and work with everyone.
We have a responsibility to investigate any party for breaches of criminal law in a way that is proportionate, necessary and accountable.
DEFRA will be monitoring delivery of the cull and sending observers to watch activities. Actions taken against badgers outside the remit of the licence could constitute a wildlife crime, which the police will, of course, investigate.
Any interference with setts, killing, or attempted killing of badgers without a licence is illegal and unacceptable. If anyone has evidence of that happening, they are encouraged to report this to the local Police Wildlife Crime Officer. Every Police force has officers working in this specialist role. The UK National Wildlife Crime Unit is a police unit that works closely with all police forces across the UK. Through its website it can assist putting you in contact with your local officer.
Police costs incurred for the badger cull in Staffordshire during 2022 amounted to £179,219.
We would only close roads in an emergency situation or if there was a risk to public safety. This power falls under the Road Traffic Act. We do not have the power to close a footpath except in an emergency situation or if there was a risk to public safety. Footpath closures and diversions are authorised and managed by the Highways Department of the local authority.
The provision of public conveniences is the responsibility of the local authority. If you urinate in a public place or a place that can be seen from a public place you may cause someone to take offence. This could constitute an offence under the Public Order Act. If you defecate this may be considered more likely to offend. Consideration should be given to taking all litter and waste with you and disposing of responsibly. You should give consideration as to whether your actions are likely to cause alarm or distress to any member of the public.
Parking enforcement in Staffordshire is the responsibility of the local authority. Further details are available through all the council websites. Parking obstruction offences are still enforced by police. Depending upon the circumstances the penalty for this is a £30 or £50 non-endorsable fixed penalty notice or £60 for an endorsable offence.
A P.I.N is a Police Information Notice. It is intended to provide a person who is the subject of a complaint an awareness of the allegation made about them and an opportunity to amend their behaviour to prevent committing an offence under the Harassment Act.
Please refer questions regarding licences to Natural England.
A badger that has been killed by licensed individuals will be deemed to have been killed lawfully. If you suspect the badger has been killed contrary to the cull conditions (eg. not within the cull boundaries etc) call the police on 101. Do not move the badger.
Do not move the badger, but do call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999, who will attend.
Point of contact
Staffordshire Police’s role will be to protect life and property, deal with any incidents of crime and disorder and ensure that anyone who wishes to protest peacefully and lawfully is able to do so.
Planning or organising a public event
If you are planning or organising a public event, be it a protest march or demonstration, please contact our Police Liaison Officers for more information.
Press office enquiries
Should you have any questions for our press office regarding Operation Cobb you can either email [email protected] or call 01785 234864. For out of hours enquiries please call 101 as normal.