Animal rights protesters investigated by police over anti-Tory leaflets

Guardian reports that Stop he cull leaflets fail strict election rules

Stop the Cull leaflets fail strict election rules requiring them to include the name and address of the printer, the promoter and the person being promoted

Detectives have been called in to investigate thousands of anti-Tory posters and leaflets distributed by animal rights campaigners in key marginal constituencies.

Members of the Stop the Cull group, which took direct action against the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s controversial badger cull, claim to have printed almost half a million leaflets and posters calling for people to “Vote the Tories out”.

Constituencies targeted include Stroud in Gloucestershire, not far from one of the zones where badgers have been killed in trial culls over the past two years, and just across the Severn estuary in Cardiff North.

But activists have also dropped leaflets and stuck up posters across the country, from Hampshire to Lancashire.

One of the leaflets includes the slogan: “They killed badgers … Vote them out to save the rest.” It also flags up the possibility of the hunting ban being overturned if the Tories win power.

It encourages people to view the website Cull the Tories, which lists marginal seats where it believes Labour could defeat the Conservatives.

Labour activists in Gloucestershire and Cardiff have said privately they believe the campaign could help their cause.

But some of the material has been passed to Gloucestershire police. A detective sergeant has written to Jay Tiernan, a leading member of the Stop the Cull group, suggesting the leaflets and posters could constitute an electoral offence.

The officer believes that though the Stop the Cull group is not standing, it has published election material. Such material needs to include the name and address of the printer, the promoter and the person being promoted. The leaflets and posters do not feature these details.

Tiernan was particularly concerned because earlier this year he was given a suspended jail term for breaking an injunction designed to prevent him from disrupting the culls.

He said he intended to add the details to new material to make sure they did not breach electoral law.

Tiernan said he suspected Conservative supporters worried about the contest in constituencies like Stroud might have handed the material to police, though he had no evidence this happened.

He said: “There is concern in those constituencies where we have been working hard that we could help make the difference.”

Tiernan said around 200 people had been involved in the campaign – though a “hardcore” of a few dozen had carried out most of the work. He emphasised that the group did not support Labour but was asking people to vote for the party simply because of the Tory-led cull.

The charity Animal Aid, which is not connected to Stop the Cull, has also called for animal lovers to deliver its leaflets in marginals.

It says the election “could be a matter of life and death for millions of animals”, arguing that if the Tories got in the badger cull could be rolled out across the country and the Hunting Act repealed.

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