The Badger Trust has been granted a judicial review of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' decision to allow badgers to be culled in England.
Mr Justice Irwin granted permission for the review at the end of last week because evidence shows that a cull may in fact worsen the spread of bovine tuberculosis. The case is now expected to come before the High Court of London in June 2012.
The Badger Trust announced that it intended to take legal action against Defra in February after the Department revealed the location of two pilot culls. It submitted its application for a High Court judicial review in March.
The charity will ask the High Court to overturn Defra’s decision on three grounds:
- A cull would not meet the legal test of “preventing the spread of disease” and may in fact spread the disease.
- The cost impact assessment carried out by Defra was only based on the farmer free-shooting option and did not allow for the possibility that this may be ruled out for being inhumane, meaning that farmers would be obliged to use the more costly method of trap and shoot.
- Defra does not have any legal powers to make Natural England responsible for the issuing of licenses to cull badgers as under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, culling badgers is the responsibility of the Secretary of State.
Badger Trust solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan from Bidmans LLP said: “We are pleased that the court has given the Badger Trust’s challenge the green light on all three grounds. The badger cull as proposed would make matters worse at great cost to farmers.”
A Defra spokesman warned that the cost to the taxpayer would be £1bn over the next ten years if bovine TB is not dealt with and said: “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.
“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.”
In March 2012 the Welsh Assembly announced that it had scrapped its plan for a badger cull following a review of the science and will now concentrate on cattle-based measures including vaccinations.
Recent figures on the bovine TB incidence rate, released by Defra, indicate that had fallen slightly from 5.3 per cent in January 2011 to 4.3 per cent in the same month 2012.