UKIP’s new leader, former soldier Henry Bolton, has angered animal rights activists by claiming he could strangle a TB-infected badger with his bare hands.
In an interview with Russia Today, Mr Bolton was questioned about whether there was an initiation ceremony for UKIP leaders.
One of the mock initiation options put forward by the interviewer was chasing a badger with TB across Dartmoor before capturing it and breaking its neck.
Laughing, Mr Bolton said: “I could probably do that.
“I reckon I could do that, but it is not part of the initiation into being a leader of UKIP.”
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, was quick to hit back.
He told the New Statesman it was a ‘stupid statement’ and said he would raise it with Defra Secretary Michael Gove in a meeting about the badger cull next week.
“I think he was trying to prove his manliness by saying he would kill it with his bare hands, which is disgraceful in my view”, Mr Dyer added.
“I think it is part of a broader picture which we are seeing of this poor animal being demonised, a vicious predator which needs to be controlled.
“We are very worried these type of statements give the greenlight to people who want to be cruel to these animals.”
UKIP’s manifesto for the 2017 general election did not mention bovine TB or the badger cull, but the party previously pledged support for a trial cull ‘if veterinary opinion substantiates it’.