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Hundreds of sheep stolen from farms in Somerset

Hundreds of sheep have been stolen in the last six weeks. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Nearly 500 sheep have been stolen from Somerset farms in the last six weeks in what police say is an "unusual" spike in sheep-rustling.

The thefts include nearly 150 lambs and ewes from near Langport in the middle of the night, nearly 130 from a farm near Baltonsborough and sheep's skins found blocking a land drain in Glastonbury.

Cows are also being targeted, with a cattle lorry from East Huntspill found burnt out in Langport, and cows stolen from a shed in Ilchester.

Farmers are losing tens of thousands of pounds from these thefts, and police say the meat of these animals could be sold illegally. They hope a nationwide appeal for information will help the investigation.

It’s sickening what these mindless thieves do. The sheep have probably suffered in transit and not been killed humanly either.

– Anonymous victim of sheep-rustling

Police investigate hedge trimming

This hedge in Horsington has become a thorny issue. Credit: ITV News

Locals are furious and police are investigating after more than a mile of hedgerow was cut in a Somerset village during the bird nesting season.

There were complaints that an untrimmed hedge in Horsington, South Somerset, was scratching people's cars, but villagers were horrified to see that landowners had had a mile-long stretch of it significantly cut back.

The landowners have said they had no choice after being contacted by the council. Villagers say hundreds of nests and a thousand young birds will have been destroyed - and that the hedge was perfectly safe.

Police have been contacted and say they are looking into it. It is illegal to do something to kill birds or harm their nests.
Local resident Robert White was among those outraged by what has happened.

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Caffe Nero says badger cull milk boycott is about staff safety

The badger cull is strongly supported by farmers but controversial among animal rights activists. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Caffe Nero has defended its boycott of milk from badger cull areas as necessary to protect its staff.

In a statement the coffee chain insisted it was not bowing to intimidation, but that it had to act when staff well-being was threatened.

With just 2% of our annual milk supply impacted, we made what we feel was the right choice ... We are not intimidated by protestors in spite of their ongoing and upsetting efforts to threaten our business. At the end of the day, we know that the authorities will support us if needed. However, we made a decision to limit any risk to our people as quickly as possible.

– Caffe Nero statement

Animal rights activists told Caffe Nero they would protest if the coffee chain continued to use milk from badger cull areas.

Dairy farmers in Gloucestershire and Somerset have criticised activists for their tactics, and talked of boycotting the coffee chain for its decision. Caffe Nero says it has discussed its reasons with the National Farmers' Union.

West Country MP criticises Caffe Nero's badger cull stance

The badger cull is strongly supported by farmers but controversial among animal rights activists. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A West Country MP is criticising Caffe Nero's decision to stop using milk that has come from farms in badger cull zones in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

With two big milk producers in his constituency Ian Liddell-Grainger says the coffee shop's decision will put jobs at risk.

Caffe Nero took the move after anti-cull protesters threatened to boycott the cafe unless the company refused to the use the milk.

I have a lot of farmers in my constituency. I have superb dairymen, superb cattle, wonderful milk. Don't boycott British milk to put British jobs at risk because you've got some petty vendetta. Get a job, grow up and stop annoying the police."

– Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater & West Somerset

Government accuses badger cull activists of "threatening" Caffe Nero

The badger cull is strongly supported by dairy farmers, but controversial among animal rights activists. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The government has accused animal rights activists of "intimidating and threatening" Caffe Nero into boycotting milk from badger cull areas.

The coffee chain had said it had stopped stocking milk from those farms, after activists said they would protest - leading to anger from farmers in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

It is wholly unacceptable for a small group of protestors to intimidate and threaten retailers in this way.

Our strategy for tackling bovine TB is based on advice from the Chief Veterinary Officer about the best way to control this harmful disease which threatens the future of our dairy and beef industries.

We will continue to work closely with the dairy industry and retailers to offer them all the support we can.

– DEFRA spokesperson

Caffe Nero boycotting badger cull milk, faces boycott from farmers

Farmers say the cull is essential for eradicating TB in cows, while activists argue it is cruel and ineffective. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Caffe Nero says it has stopped stocking milk from farms in badger cull areas, after animal rights activists said they would protest - leading to anger from farmers.

The coffee shop chain now faces a possible boycott from farmers in Gloucestershire and Somerset, including the President of the National Farmers' Union.

The NFU's Deputy President has argued that the cull is essential for eradicating TB in cows, and a lifeline to farmers.

"The people who have made the threat of action against Caffè Nero are a small minority and it is extremely disappointing that the company appears to have bowed into pressure..."

“We need to remember that we are talking about controlling bovine TB – a disease which is spreading in cattle and badgers and will continue to spread if left uncontrolled. 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."

“It is especially saddening that this has come at a time when the dairy sector is facing price pressures ... We would urge all members of the supply chain to continue support for British dairy farmers.”

– Minette Batters, National Farmers' Union Deputy President

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Day two of the Royal Bath and West Show

It's day two of the Royal Bath and West Show and with the sun still shining tens of thousands of people have spent the day at the site near Shepton Mallet.

Amongst them was the Environment Secretary Liz Truss who met with farmers to discuss the Government's pledges to help rural communities.

Victoria Davies reports

Royal Bath and West Show: what's in store for Day Two

500 traders are exhibiting at this year's Royal Bath and West Show. Credit: ITV News

Day two of the Royal Bath and West Show will see Environment Secretary Liz Truss talking to farmers about the government's promises to champion their industry.

They include getting a fair deal from supermarkets and a strategy to eradicate bovine TB within 25 years. We'll be speaking to her about what the South West's farmers and food producers can expect from the next five years.

Local produce is at the heart of the show. Credit: ITV News

There's also 500 traders exhibiting local produce, along with livestock competitions and food marquees - and thousands of visitors celebrating food, farming and country life.

Tune in to ITV News West Country at 6pm for the latest from Shepton Mallet, and catch up with all the highlights from day one here.

Royal Bath and West Show opens today

The Duchess of Cornwall at the Show in a past year. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Gates for the 153rd Bath and West show have opened, with thousands expected at the Shepton Mallet showground over the next four days.

More than 4,000 livestock are at what organisers call "England's biggest celebration of rural life", along with 500 traders. However there won't be a high profile political visitor today, as the event coincides with the Queen's Speech for the new Government.

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