We Must Not Give in to Intimidation Tactics of a Minority

05/06/2015 17:20 BST | Updated 05/06/2016 10:59 BST

When Caffe Nero changed their milk sourcing policy after intimidation and threats from a minority of animal rights protesters the general public was rightly shocked.


It is unacceptable that people opposed to the government policy of culling badgers can turn to bullying tactics to force anyone into action.

And it is both surprising and worrying that a company as large as Caffe Nero gave in to these people when farmers and their families have stood strong and refused to falter when faced with the such threats.

Let's be clear. The threats to Caffe Nero's staff and its business are the same sort of tactics that are faced on the ground by our farmers in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Read more about bovine TB and British farms...

Our farmers have resolutely dealt with all of the following protester tactics over the past few years:

Calls in the middle of the night; people standing outside homes wearing balaclavas; abuse being shouted at families; rape alarms being set off in the middle of the night; protesters tailing farmers' and their families' cars; protesters shining torches into homes through windows; protesters publishing personal contact details on websites and encouraging other activists to phone them up; protesters filming them at posting video to the internet; sending abusive and abhorrent text messages. The list goes on.

That is why the NFU took out a High Court injunction to stop intimidation tactics being used on farmers involved in the badger cull.

Earlier this year, Jay Tiernan - the spokesman of the Stop the Cull movement - was found in contempt of court for breaching the NFU's High Court injunction. He was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years. He is now appealing this decision.

Even after many major headlines surrounding bovine TB and the plight our dairy farmers face in tackling this devastating disease, there is still much misunderstanding.

That's why we reached out to Caffe Nero - to explain how the disease is impacting on the industry and our members' lives - and they have listened.

They have now clarified their position on the badger cull. A spokesman for the coffee shop said: "There has been a lot of controversy and strong emotion surrounding the culling of badgers. To be clear, Caffe Nero is not for or against this practice. That is a matter for the government and those who have strong views on the policy. We sell coffee."

We must remember that the issue at the heart of this matter is bovine TB, a disease which has had a devastating effect on British farms, with nearly 33,000 cattle being slaughtered last year alone.

The pilot badger culls are a government policy, based on scientific evidence, aimed at controlling this disease which is a huge threat to dairy and beef farmers in the South West and other parts of the country. The 25-year TB eradication strategy published by government last year is the first comprehensive plan of its kind for England. It gives us the best chance to eradicate this disease by dealing with it on all fronts.

What the Caffe Nero situation has taught us is that each individual retailer or outlet should stand firmly by their procurement policies - and not differentiate between milk that is and is not perceived to be from the cull areas. This is an approach that will have most force.

The public can help by continuing to back British farming by buying British milk and dairy products. As a farmer myself I can tell you it means a lot when we know we have the support of British shoppers.

What does bovine TB mean for thousands of British family farms?