Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Badger Trust loses cull challenge

Government proposals will see two pilot culls of badgers in a bid to reduce bovine TB

The Badger Trust has lost its High Court bid to block a cull of thousands of badgers to tackle tuberculosis in cattle.

The Trust argued Government proposals for two pilot culls were "very, very controversial" at both animal welfare and scientific levels and should be stopped.

But Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, ruled the legal challenge had failed on all grounds and refused to quash a Government decision last December to allow the culls by farmers and landowners to go ahead.

At a hearing last month, the Trust accused the livestock industry of using badgers as a scapegoat and underestimating the risk of cattle-to-cattle transmission of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

Ruling the culling policy lawful, the judge said: "The scientific evidence supported the simple view that these measures would help prevent or reduce the spread of the disease."

The Trust represents around 60 voluntary badger groups and says the (bTB) problem should be dealt with through vaccination. It points to the situation in Wales, where, after legal action, the Welsh government decided in March this year to use other methods following a review of the latest scientific evidence on culling.

The Government argues bTB has now spread to cover large areas of the west and south-west of England, as well as Wales, and badger vaccination is "not a sufficient response to the problem".

It says in 2010/11, nearly 25,000 cattle were slaughtered in England alone at a cost to the taxpayer of £91 million, and the disease is having a devastating impact on livestock farmers. The court heard Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), plans to introduce the initial culls later this year.

David Wolfe QC, appearing for the trust, said that if the courts did not intervene, the culls would take place in two areas - one in West Gloucestershire and the other in West Somerset.

Each area was some 350 square kilometres, approximately the size of the Isle of Wight, and it was estimated 3,800 badgers could eventually be killed in each of the four years of culling, Mr Wolfe said. The scheme could eventually lead to culling in up to 10 areas per year.

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