(ANIMAL NEWS) LONDON — The Badger Trust received official permission to review the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s (Defra) inhumane pilot cull program earlier this year. The proposed badger cull – which was announced last year as a solution to the spread of tuberculosis in cattle – is losing steam after Wales decided against against the cruel act. Read more for details on the new judicial review, and what this means for the wild badger population. — Global Animal
Photo credit: Fred Dawson via Flickr

By Colleen McDuling – UK Correspondent

The Badger Trust in England lodged a challenge in the High Court earlier this year to the proposed Badger cull. They were granted permission for a judicial review into the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s (Defra) decision, on three grounds. Firstly, the trust said that the cull would not prevent the spread of Bovine tuberculosis, but rather only make matters worse. It went on to argue that government plans for trials to involve “free shooting” of badgers in pilot areas – shooting them as they roam – is likely to be ineffective or a hazard to public safety. With this could come a significant cost risk to farmers, and that Defra’s cost-impact assessment was “flawed.” Thirdly, the trust says the guidance given to government agency Natural England – which Defra has tasked with issuing culling licences – is unlawful; that function lying with the Environment Secretary.

Badger Trust’s solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan of Bindmans LLP, said: “We are very pleased that the court has given the Badger Trust’s challenge the green light on all three grounds. She said that the proposed cull “would make matters worse at great cost to farmers, badgers and rural communities.” 

The proposed cull was announced last year by the Government – initially in two pilot areas – to try to curb the spread of tuberculosis in cattle amid support from many farmers. 

Defra, which commissioned the cull, refused to comment on the forthcoming legal challenge, citing legal reasons, which was granted by Mr. Justice Irwin.  A Defra spokesperson said that “Bovine TB is a chronic and devastating disease. It forced the slaughter of 25,000 cattle in 2010 alone, and is taking a terrible toll on our farmers and rural communities.” The spokesperson continued, “Nobody wants to cull badgers. But no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated the disease in cattle without tackling it in wildlife too. We are investing in the development of usable vaccines but sadly these are still years away, and we have to take action now. Unless TB is effectively dealt with it will cost taxpayers around £1 billion over the next 10 years.”

It is likely that the hearing will go ahead in June of this year at London’s High Court.

There are no plans to cull badgers in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Earlier this year, the Welsh Assembly Government announced there would be no pilot cull – instead it has opted for a five-year vaccination programme.