Badger cull legal challenge in Somerset and Gloucestershire fails
A High Court bid to halt this year's badger culling, which will take place without independent monitoring, has failed.
The Badger Trust argued the "controlled shooting" in Gloucestershire and Somerset should only take place with independent observers overseeing it.
Defra lawyers said the monitoring was only intended to run in the first year.
Dominic Dyer, of The Badger Trust, said the group was "considering its options" following the ruling.
Mr Dyer called on Environment Secretary Liz Truss to halt the culls or reinstate monitoring.
He added the High Court ruling "does not detract from the serious public concerns over the continuation of the cull".
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokeswoman said: "We are pleased that the judge has found in our favour.
"We have always been clear that the independent expert panel's role was to oversee the six-week pilots in the first year of the culls only.
"This year we have made changes to monitor effectiveness and humaneness and the culls will be independently audited."
Defra is testing whether the shooting method can be rolled out to other parts of the country to tackle tuberculosis in cattle.
The government and farmers insist that culling is necessary to tackle TB in livestock. More than 26,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year because of the problem.
But opponents say it is inhumane and ineffective, and alternatives such as vaccination should be pursued.
Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, sitting in London, dismissed the application for a judicial review of the cull, due to start its second of four years this autumn.
David Wolfe QC, appearing for The Badger Trust, argued that Defra had not simply "moved the goalposts" but was also "sacking the referee".
But the judge said he rejected the claims that a legitimate expectation had arisen of independent monitoring.
The trust was ordered to pay £10,000 towards Defra's legal costs. It can still ask the appeal court to hear the case.
Last year, an independent panel said controlled shooting could not deliver the level of culling needed to bring about a reduction in bovine TB and was not humane.
The 2013 cull saw 921 badgers killed in Gloucestershire and 940 in Somerset.
This year, the minimum number of badgers to be culled is just under 1,000.
The maximum number of badgers that can be culled has been set at 1,091 in Gloucestershire and 785 in Somerset.