Badger culling legal challenge fails

 
Cow Bovine TB costs the UK economy more than £100m per year, mainly in farm payments

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A legal bid to block badger culling in England has failed in the High Court.

The government says that culling will help combat cattle tuberculosis, which costs the UK more than £100m per year.

The Badger Trust argued that the cull was illegal, as it will at best make a small impact on the disease and could make it worse.

Culling is now likely to go ahead later this year in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, with as many as 40 sites to be licensed eventually.

Badgers become infected with the bacteria that cause bovine TB, and can carry them from farm to farm, although more cattle contract the disease from contact with infected herds.

Plans to begin culling in Wales were recently abandoned in favour of a vaccination policy following the change of Welsh Assembly Government last year.

At the High Court hearing in London last month, the Badger Trust argued that the cull plans drawn up by the Department the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were illegal on several grounds.

Badgers are generally protected under UK law, but exceptions are allowed for disease prevention.

Start Quote

England now faces the prospect of 40,000 badgers being slaughtered over the next four years”

End Quote David Williams Badger Trust

The trust's lawyers argued that that the small reduction in cattle TB incidence anticipated by government scientists did not qualify as "prevention".

The government does not set a specific target for the percentage reduction in cattle TB incidence it expects to see, but the latest evidence suggests that nine years after culling, incidence might fall by 9-16%.

Scientific evidence, stemming mainly from the UK Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), shows that culling can actually spread the disease, as it disturbs badgers' family groups and makes them roam further afield, coming into contact with more herds.

The government acknowledges this, but believes its culling strategy will get round the problem.

Badgers Badgers (Meles meles) are protected by a number of UK and European laws

The trust also argued that the plan to have culling licences issued by Natural England was outside the law, and that the only person authorised to issue them was the Environment Secretary - currently Caroline Spelman MP.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Ouseley ruled against the trust on both counts.

"Although the Secretary of State has tried to interpret the science to her advantage, nothing has altered the basic finding that while badgers are implicated, killing them can make no meaningful contribution to tackling the disease, and cattle measures in themselves are sufficient if properly applied," said Badger Trust chairman David Williams.

"We did not embark on this litigation lightly; and England now faces the prospect of 40,000 badgers being slaughtered over the next four years."

Costing the cull

The trust also raised issues regarding cost.

The government says that cull areas must be at least 150 sq km in size, and the groups of landowners and farmers applying to cull must show they can access at least 70% of the land.

The RBCT (1998-2005)

  • 30 areas of the country selected, each 100 sq km
  • 10 culled proactively, 10 reactively, 10 not culled
  • Badgers culled through being caught in cage and then shot
  • Incidence of bovine TB measured on farms inside and outside study areas
  • Trial cost £7m per year
  • More than 11,000 badgers killed
  • Reactive culling suspended early after significant rise in infection
  • Proactive culling reduced incidence within culled area but increased it outside
  • Group's recommendation: culling "is unlikely to contribute positively, or cost effectively, to the control of cattle TB"

The groups will employ trained marksmen to shoot the badgers as they roam - so-called "free-shooting".

The effectiveness of free-shooting badgers has never been studied. In the RBCT, they were trapped in cages and then shot.

The trust pointed out that if free-shooting proves ineffective, farmers may have to resort to trapping - which would increase costs approximately 10-fold.

The government said it was pleased with the judgement.

"No one wants to cull badgers, but last year bovine TB led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle," said a Defra spokesman.

"To help eradicate the disease, it needs to be tackled in badgers.

"We will continue to work with the farming industry so badger control in two pilot areas can start as soon as is practical."

Natural England is currently processing the Somerset and Gloucestershire applications.

The judge left the option of a written appeal open to the trust, and it has a week in which to decide whether or not to pursue that avenue.

Humane Society International has mounted a parallel challenge through the EU, arguing that Defra's plans contravene the Bern Convention on protection of wildlife.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 219.

    Now i will have to stop using any dairy products unless I can find a none English supply that does not kill badgers!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 218.

    212Lagerlord - more to the point the issue with culling badgers is that it doesn't WORK for eradicating bTB.

    Unless you are indeed suggesting making badgers extinct in the UK to reduce bTB? Which would likely help a great deal, but would rightly be unconscionable to most people!

    Seen to be doing, isn't the same thing as doing something productive at all!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 217.

    "212Lagerlord - Just because it looks cute it doesnt mean its not a pest"

    Just because something may or may not be a pest to someone, doesn't mean it should therefore be made extinct.

    Look at buzzards, the reason for their inital extinction in Britain, reasons for humans killing them again now, and the political reasons for the Government to destroy their nests. Cars kill many more game birds

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 216.

    No one seems to ask WHY cattle are so prone to contracting TB ? Couldn't be that the level of milk production now generated by each cow impacts upon their immune function, or the level of antibiotic use has some contributory role. Removing a carrier does not address the root cause in my view, it simply allows a flawed and unhealthy system to continue for the time being, until the next bit problem.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 215.

    209. stoneyfarmer


    Oooops, sorry misinterpreted your intentions, got the ammo and shot myself. Anyway where I used to live there were whole families of badgers and many setts, never hurt anyone. One night the entire clan (cete) was destroyed, illegally. Within weeks the property developer re-applied to develop a housing estate, the 1st application was refused because of the badger setts.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 214.

    we don't need no stinking badgers

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 213.

    As expected very many more protest comments than supportive of this out come,sad that so many think more of protecting animals than their own kind such as old folk and children.As for badgers,they are not the cuddly things so many believe them to be,they are top of the food chain here and need to be controlled because there are too many of them.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 212.

    See how many minus points this gets – and no, not a troll.

    Yes probably lots of city voting on here, however how many have met a badger? Yeah, they look cute, but believe me they are not. Just because it looks cute it doesn’t mean it’s not a pest.

    Deer are cute too – go look up the road accident figures…

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 211.

    Human "lifestyle" is decimating the environment all living things share and depend upon--and we know better. For example, we need neither meat nor dairy--they are luxuries that come with a heavy ecological price. Those herds suffer disease due to overcrowding and lack of vaccination. The badgers are collateral damage in our war against nature and common sense. By the way, I live in a rural county.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 210.

    202.David Renner -

    To actually stand a chance of working you'd need to eradicate badgers from whole counties, killing orders of magnitude more than the current cull plans and indeed totally slaughtering and wiping out every badger in the area (and somehow killing any that fled - impossible without some sort of ring of death)

    The cost would be astronomical, and bTB would still creep back anyway.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 209.

    chrisk50 @ 200:
    "I'm just playing with percentages as the government does, 9% reduction still results in 91% remaining, the cost will still be there probably still at £100 million....."

    Yes, I understood that.

    I was providing you with further ammunition!

    Compensation paid to farmers is only around 1/3rd of the total cost. The remainder is 'neutral' and will still be needed post-cull.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 208.

    @Icebloo 206

    "Well if the Tories can kill all the badgers it will mean there will be less animals to move out of the way when they attempt to sell off our national forests to private, foreign investors to build houses on ! . Tories would sell their own mothers if they could make a profit."

    I believe there are several documented cases of this! ;)

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 207.

    "26.David
    I'm sorry for the badgers but there does seem to be a weight of circumstantial evidence behind the decision to cull.."

    In fact there's a weight of *experimental* evidence that culling doesn't work. It's been tried and actually makes things worse.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 206.

    Well if the Tories can kill all the badgers it will mean there will be less animals to move out of the way when they attempt to sell off our national forests to private, foreign investors to build houses on ! They have tried it twice already and you can bet they will try to do it again. Tories would sell their own mothers if they could make a profit.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 205.

    @201 Chewho - well said. @144 Michael's attitude is arrogant, dismissive and ill-informed. In fact, he would fit in well in Defra or even the Tory party! It's people like him who give country dwellers a bad name. Dominion?! What a load of old rubbish!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 204.

    @ David Renner191
    "If you think about it, ALL farming and agriculture in general is deeply unnatural"

    Perhaps, but intensive industrialised methods of farming require vast quantities of growth hormones & antibiotics in animals and chemical fertiliser and pesticides on crops. Such methods produce sick unhappy animals, dead soil and meat and vegetables full of harmful chemicals. THAT's unnatural!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 203.

    @199. Loads of minus votes from city dwellers.

    On what basis do you presume that some of us rural dairy farmers are not providing a significant opposition to the cull?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 202.

    @192D Dortman
    Well no - parishes are large; several farms wide.perturbed badgers from a farm with reactor cattle might spread out over neighboring countryside (where cattle would be subject to stringent monitoring) and would probably also be culled. Yes- wholesale badger slaughter in the short term but that's what happens in cattle NOW and in the long term everything's more healthy.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 201.

    @Michael 144
    "Grow up children. The English have become a bunch of little school girls who believe that Man doesn't have dominion over animals."

    Are you trying to be ironic? Given the catastrophic mess "Man" is making on the planet, your rather fascile human supremacist comments do look somewhat dated and...uninformed to say the least.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 200.

    198. stoneyfarmer
    3 MINUTES AGO
    chrisk50 @ 196:
    "The government says that culling will help combat cattle tuberculosis, which costs the UK more than £100m per year."

    I'm just playing with percentages as the government does, 9% reduction still results in 91% remaining, the cost will still be there probably still at £100 million. My point is, it is not badgers that are the cause.

 

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