Apr 23 2008
WILDLIFE lovers are threatening to boycott Welsh tourism and produce if Wales presses ahead with badger culls.
Tourism operators have reacted with alarm to a potential public backlash if the killings go ahead.
Tourist information centres in Wales have already received emails from disgruntled wildlife lovers threatening to shun Wales as a holiday destination.
Dylan Evans, a partner at Anglesey Sea Zoo, is annoyed tourism groups and other stakeholders were not consulted about the planned cull.
The Assembly Government announced the initiative as part of a package of measures aimed at eradicating bovine TB (bTB).
Mr Evans said: "These days people vote with their wallets, so it's important perceptions are managed.
"I am concerned at the wider impact on the rural economy in Wales. If an unjustified cull of hedgehogs was planned, people would be against it. It's the same with badgers -- there's no scientific proof that badgers spread the disease."
In last week's Assembly debate on badger culling, Labour AMs Lorraine Barrett and Irene James warned of a backlash from "the public throughout Wales, the UK and the world".
In a sign of the passions the policy is likely to generate, 25 Dyfi Badger Group members dressed in badger suits visited NFU Cymru's Aberystwyth office as the cull was being announced.
Staff in the union's offices are being advised to block off their letter boxes and to be vigilant for suspicious packages.
The Animal Liberation Front has warned it will hit farmers "in their pockets" by tearing down fences and damaging buildings.
Philip Hughes, manager of the Rhug estate, Corwen, which has a shared interest in food and tourism, admitted badger culling could harm Wales� image, but added: "While I can't see it having a positive impact on product buying decisions, at least farmers will have a product to sell."
But Ray Wood, of outdoor pursuits group Snowdonia Active, said he was unaware of any planned boycott.
He added: "I can't imagine it would have the same impact as the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak."
Esther Roberts, managing director of North Wales tourism, said it was believed a single badger lover had targeted tourist information centres with angry emails.
She said: "When culling trials were carried out in England, they had no impact on visitor numbers, and I imagine it will be the same here."
The Assembly Government said it "fully understood" the importance of both tourism and agriculture to the Welsh rural economy. But a spokeswoman said: "There is no single solution to eradicating bovine TB."
Culls, in bTB hotspots, are unlikely to start before the autumn and, initially, are likely to focus on south-west Wales.
The Badger Trust is seeking a judicial review of the plans. It claims 96% of the public opposed the policy, adding: "There will be a damaging impact on tourism and on public support for Welsh farm produce".