Friday, 10 August 2012

Challenge to badger cull gets go-ahead

An animal welfare group opposed to Government plans for a pilot cull of badgers in two areas of the South West have won leave to appeal against a High Court ruling that the shooting should go ahead.
The Badger Trust learned yesterday it can challenge the culls, scheduled for this autumn as part of the Government's campaign to stamp out bovine TB. It will now go to the Court of Appeal to get the High Court's refusal to stop the campaign overturned.
he move was greeted with dismay by farmers who want to get on with the pilot culls.
The appeal is likely to be heard before the end of September. It may mean the proposed start of the six-week cull will be delayed. It had been scheduled to begin next month, once sufficient numbers of police officers became available following the Olympics to cope with anticipated protests and possible action by extremists.
The proposed sites for the cull are in West Somerset and around the Tewkesbury area of Gloucestershire. Under the plans, badgers would be shot by trained marksmen.
The Badger Trust considers that vaccination, alongside stringent cattle-testing and movement restrictions, would be a more effective way and that culling would only make matters worse.
Yesterday, Lord Justice Laws granted permission on the Badger Trust's grounds that the Environment Secretary had unlawfully used the licensing powers in the Protection of Badgers Act. This allows killing badgers, normally a criminal offence, for the purposes of preventing the spread of disease. David Williams, the Badger Trust chairman, said: "It is vital for the law to be clarified when it concerns the wholesale slaughter of a wildlife species in a vain attempt to prevent the spread of disease.
"At the judicial review hearing it was accepted that culling would spread the disease and, only after nine years, produce a marginal slowdown in the rate of new TB incidence.
Mr Williams added: "This action will impose substantial further costs on the Badger Trust, which is a comparatively small charity. So we have issued an appeal to the local badger groups, on whose behalf we act, and to our many supporters."
But the National Farmers' Union said it was surprised at the decision. Ian Johnson, the union's spokesman in the South West, said: "While the news is frustrating, we always knew that, given the public interest in this issue, the Badger Trust would want to take every possible avenue for legal challenge. We hope the hearing is dealt with swiftly.
"We support the Government policy to include badger culling as part of its wider TB-eradication policy.
"No other country in the world has ever tackled TB successfully without also controlling TB in its wildlife reservoir and this is why the NFU fully supports the badger control pilot areas as part of the Government's science-led policy of culling badgers in areas where TB is persistent and high.
"This policy is desperately needed to tackle what is a terrible and damaging disease that affects cattle and badgers and brings misery to the lives of many hard-working farming families. Our end goal is for a healthy countryside and that needs healthy badgers and healthy cattle. This policy, and these pilots, will help to deliver that."

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