England

Brian May in badger legal action threat

Brian May Image copyright PA
Image caption Brian May's charity is now threatening legal action against Natural England

Rock guitarist and anti-cull protester Brian May has threatened legal action if badger culls continue in Somerset and Gloucestershire or are rolled out to other areas.

Mr May said his Save Me Trust would challenge the lawfulness of the culls which are likely to re-start in autumn.

The call for a judicial review is based on the effectiveness of culling and whether it breaks legal guidelines.

The legal action is against Natural England, which declined to comment.

Natural England, which issues the cull licences, would not comment about the letter or the licensing process.

Last year 274 badgers were culled in Gloucestershire, below the minimum 615 target. The cull in 2013 in Gloucestershire also failed to reach the minimum level.

In Somerset, 341 badgers were culled against a minimum target of 316 in 2014.

'Fundamental failure'

Ministers and farmers insist culling is necessary to tackle the spread of bovine TB, which results in thousands of cattle being slaughtered every year.

A Save Me Trust spokesman said its lawyers had written to the chief executive and chief legal advisor of Natural England of its intentions.

"If any licences to cull badgers are either activated in Gloucestershire and Somerset or any new licences granted for this purpose anywhere, then the lawfulness of the decisions to do so will be challenged by a judicial review in the High Court," he said.

He added that the culling was unlawful as it "does not rationally serve the statutory purpose which permits the killing of badgers only to achieve the aim of preventing the spread of disease".

He added that there was a "fundamental failure" in the consultation process and a "flawed approach in calculating badger numbers".

In both of the pilot areas, a significant proportion were killed by the more expensive cage trapping and shooting method, rather than controlled shooting of free-running badgers.

The cull zone may be extended to Dorset this year but no confirmation has yet been made by Defra.

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