Badger cull will continue despite appeal, says minister

The European badger Up to 1,500 badgers will be culled over five years

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The Welsh rural affairs minister says she is determined to continue with a cull of badgers in Pembrokeshire.

The Badger Trust has been told it can appeal against the outcome of a judicial review that backed the Welsh Assembly Government's plans.

But Elin Jones told AMs that work would continue until a judge told the assembly government otherwise.

The Badger Trust said the planned cull should be suspended pending the appeal on 30 June.

The cull aims to stop TB being spread to cattle, but the trust disputes it will make any difference.

During a question session in the Senedd, Ms Jones answered a number of questions about the cull, which aims to stop the spread of TB from badgers to cattle.

Labour AM Joyce Watson asked whether the Badger Trust's appeal against the judicial review that backed the government's plans would affect the strategy.

The minister said the work would continue until a judge told them otherwise.

Map of cull areas The exact location of the proposed cull is a tightly-guarded secret

Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black raised concerns about the badger cull in the assembly plenary session.

He said that many local people had been frightened by government contractors and officials visiting farms in Pembrokeshire wearing masks and escorted by large number of police officers.

The minister said that eradicating TB was the "number one priority" for her.

The Badger Trust had asked for the right to appeal against the outcome of a judicial review held in April, which upheld the government's right to mount the cull.

It argued that the assembly government and the minister had not shown that a cull would "eliminate or substantially reduce" the rate of TB infection, as the law meant it had to, and that ministers had a duty to weigh the harm to the badger population against the possible benefits to farmers, but had not done so.

'Casts a shadow'

Mr Justice Elias agreed that these two points were "arguable", and granted the trust leave to appeal.

"Overall, it casts a shadow over the impending cull start in Wales," said Gwendolen Morgan, the trust's legal adviser.

"This should give the minister pause for thought before proceeding, as to start a cull and then stop summarily would be likely to cause a serious spike in TB," she told BBC News.

The largest study of culling anywhere in the world - the UK-based Krebs Trial - showed that unless it is done comprehensively, culling makes the problem worse, because it disturbs badgers' social groups, inducing them to roam further afield and infect more cows.

At least 1,500 badgers are due to be killed during the five-year programme.

The UK government is likely to approve "targeted" badger culls in England in the next few years.

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