Animal rights activists and hunt saboteurs have started setting up protest camps in Somerset.
Police are reported to be braced for clashes between farmers and campaigners who have already launched patrols and set up camps, including one near Watchet in West Somerset, where many protesters opposed to the badger cull are gathering – in one of two areas where culls are taking place.
Meanwhile, a man reported to be an anti-badger protester has been arrested at a site belonging to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the other cull area. The suspect was held at Aston Down in Stroud by Gloucestershire Police on suspicion of aggravated trespass.
Protesters last night massed in Minehead during a candlelight vigil organised by Somerset Badger Patrol.
Activists wore badger T-shirts with 'not guilty' printed on the front and held candles in protest against the cull.
Other protesters from Stop The Cull are forming a "wounded badger patrol". It was last night thought the cull would start imminently and activists are on "amber alert".
The culls in west Somerset and Gloucestershire aim to combat the spread of Bovine TB, which the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said led to the slaughter of 38,000 cattle last year.
NFU president Peter Kendall said: "For beef and dairy farmers dealing with TB on their farms, these badger culls are an essential part in the fight against this terrible disease.
"While we recognise that not everyone agrees with the Government's TB eradication policy, and the need to cull badgers to start to reduce this disease in cattle, we do acknowledge their legitimate right to hold peaceful protests. What we cannot condone are the actions being used by extreme activists designed to harass, intimidate and threaten others."