The government’s cull of badgers is an emotive issue that has divided opinion across the English countryside.
So emotive in fact that protagonists on either side of the cull divide seem unable to resist making comparisons with the Holocaust.
First it was rock guitarist Brian May, who provoked Jewish anger earlier this year when he referred to the cull as a “genocide”.
Now, a senior official from the National Farmers’ Union has sparked complaints by claiming that cull supporters have experienced intimidation similar to that suffered by Jews in Nazi Germany.
Andy Foot, the chairman of the NFU’s beef cattle group, told the Western Daily Press that, as result of action by anti-cull protesters: “The brave farmers, cull companies, local communities and National Farmers’ Union staff involved in the culls have faced a degree of fascist intimidation and propaganda akin to Kristallnacht.”
Mr Foot’s comment quickly attracted strong criticism on social media. One Facebook user, David Holmes, asked: “Does he not know anything about the persecution of the Jewish people; does he have no respect for those millions that were persecuted?”
Helen Braynis, whose father fled Nazi Germany, and who is against the cull, said: “The Holocaust has no place in these discussions.”
This week Mr Foot, who farms beef in Dorset, and stood by his remark, but insisted he had not meant to upset anyone, least of all members of the Jewish community.
He told the JC: “If my comments have caused offence I am mortified, as that was never my intention.
“My father was in the British Army and went to Germany just after the war. He met many Jews and heard their stories about the fascist intimidation and bullying that went on.
“I was making an analogy, with something that touched me. Our farmers face threats, bullying and intimidation, from militant anti cull groups and they are scared.”
NFU spokesperson Ian Johnson, defended Mr Foot.
He said: “We do not mean to offend, but farmers and their families are at their wits end with worry.
“We are just drawing a parallel, and want to empathise with the Jewish people who have experienced fascist intimidation.”
Government ministers and the NFU say culling badgers will curb tuberculosis in cattle, but critics say it has little effect.
A trial cull in Gloucestershire was ended last month after cullers could dispatch only 58 per cent of the local badger population. The target had been 70 per cent.