The anti-badger cull brigade are not happy. After the English government apparently promised to reduce the number of culls, it’s instead added 11 more.
So it’s possible the huge leak of data at the weekend identifying hundreds of people involved in badger culls may be traced to a sympathiser within DEFRA, the English government’s environment department.
“Since the first badger culls, the security of people’s data, personal information, has been paramount,” says Ian Jensen, former Metropolitan police officer turned investigator.
“There were lots of threats swirling around… I’m certainly surprised to see the type of data Innocent Badger and Stop the Cull were able to put out,” he says, referring to the groups that published the information online. “It’s a real concern.”
Most concerned are the victims, whose addresses, phone numbers and email are now public. Fieldsports News spoke to some of them but they are unwilling to speak to us publicly. They were were disturbed by the news, especially Stop the Cull says people identified will “find out what it’s like to be hunted and chased”.
“A lot of the words are designed to scare people to not stay in the cull and fear for their personal safety and stop what they’re doing,” says Jensen. “If you’re taking part in legal activity, especially one that’s sanctioned by the government, then there’s no reason why you should put up with that sort of thing.”
Besides concern, some are angry as they have not been involved in culls for years and don’t understand why they are being targeted. Stop the Cull denies it, insisting the information about Wiltshire is “def current”.
Of the couple dozen people contacted by Fieldsports News, all were from Wiltshire.
“If you’re Stop the Cull, you want your supporters to think you’re up to date and still involved in stopping the badger cull as you ever were,” says Jensen. “You’re not going to say we’ve got this data – some of it’s right and some of it’s wrong. You need to show you’re still committed.”
While threats on social media are common, Jensen says it’s rare for animal rights extremists to carry them out. However, he says any threats should be reported to the police, who are investigating the data leak.
“If it’s come from a government organisation, they’re bound by the GDPR, which is the latest rules about people’s personal data – the requirements they have to conform to make sure that data is absolutely safe,” says Jensen.
He suggests anyone whose data has been leaked to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office ICO.org.uk and take it from there.