Hundreds of people are set to take to the fields again after it was announced the badger cull in Gloucestershire will continue this summer.
Protesters against the badger cull have vowed to be out in force again, after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the House of Commons on Thursday the cull will be continued in the county and Somerset.
Gloucestershire Police officers have been training this year to deal with different situations after last year’s cull. Dozens of officers worked on Operation Themis last year, the force’s reaction to the cull.
Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl believes this year’s cull will be a “challenging” time for his officers.
He said: “We knew the proposal was for a pilot badger cull over four years, so this announcement comes as no great surprise.
“However, to those who failed to get the message last time, it is worth repeating that the police are not responsible for the cull itself, though it will fall to them to uphold the law.
“That means defending the right to free speech and protest while ensuring people are able to go about their lawful business.
“Once again, the top priority will be safeguarding the public at all times, and the responsibility dor achieve that on a day-to-day basis rests with the Chief Constable.
“We know from our experience last year the continuation of the trial will be a challenging time for the Constabulary. To see what lessons can be learned, I plan to question senior officers involved in the operation during a live web cast next month.”
It cost about £1.7million to police the cull in 2013, according to Mr Surl, and the bill is set to be reclaimed from the Government.
Last year’s cull was extended beyond its original six-week window, something Mr Surl said would had put a strain on police resources.
When asked by MPs on Thursday what he expected policing costs to be, Mr Paterson said: “That rather depends on what the protesters do.
“If the countryside were inhabited only by responsible country people, who are very concerned about TB, the policing costs would be very low.
“I totally respect democracy. We all have different views, and I totally respect people’s right to protest, but if we have an invasion of protesters who try to stop the democratic Government’s disease control policy by using measures that cross the border from legitimate democratic protest into active disruption, the policing costs will become significant.”
Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) campaigners, who patrolled public footpaths during the last cull, have spent spent the last four months recruiting new members.
Spokesman Jeanne Berry said: “We learnt a great deal from last year, and we will be even more effective this time round.
“In particular we have been working with police and Natural England to make sure there is no repetition of firearms safety breaches, culling on land without the owner’s consent, footpath violations and the appalling level of intimidation and antisocial behaviour displayed by cull supporters.
“Public anger is rising at this inexcusable violation of our wildlife so there will be many more of us patrolling the new cull.
“We will be recording every contact with cullers and police, and we expect any breaches of the cull licence or public safety to be dealt with promptly and effectively from now on. No-one from GABS broke the law during last year’s cull so we expect the police and farming community to respect our lawful right to protest and to treat us accordingly.”