England

Badger campaigners lose Court of Appeal legal battle

Badger Image copyright PA
Image caption The Badger Trust accused the government of acting unlawfully by allowing the latest badger culls to go ahead without experts monitoring the animals were being killed humanely

Campaigners have lost a legal battle at the Court of Appeal over the culling of badgers.

The Badger Trust had accused the government of letting the latest pilot culls go ahead without an independent expert panel (IEP).

They asked three judges to rule there was a "legitimate expectation" that the expert monitors would be put in place.

But Lord Justice Davis, Lord Justice Christopher Clarke and Lord Justice Bean dismissed their case.

They backed an earlier decision by the High Court that ministers had not broken rules in permitting a cull without scrutiny by an independent scientific panel.

'Ineffective slaughter'

In a statement, the Badger Trust said it was "disappointed" by the culmination of its three-month challenge but not surprised.

​"If the second year of the pilots has not met the standards determined by the Secretary of State [Liz Truss], she must acknowledge that the pilots are a failure and culling cannot be rolled out more widely," added ​Jeff Hayden, the trust's lead on the judicial review challenge.

"Instead, Defra should commit to rigorous cattle control measures as employed in Wales where a reduction of 48% in bovine TB has been achieved during the last five years.

"The small threat from badgers should be dealt with by vaccination rather than inhumane and ineffective slaughter."

Humane Society International said while it was "regrettable" that the High Court dismissed the trust's challenge, the ruling had "no bearing whatsoever" on the illegitimacy of the cull itself.

'Controlled shooting'

In response to the ruling, a Defra spokesman said the government department was "pleased" the Court of Appeal had "found in our favour".

"As we have always been clear the IEP's role was to oversee the 6-week pilots in the first year of the culls only.

"We have a comprehensive strategy to make England TB free including strict cattle movement controls and badger vaccination, but overseas experience shows that we will not beat the disease without also culling badgers where the disease is rife."


Analysis

Paul Barltrop, Political editor, West of England

The government is relieved to have come out on top in this latest skirmish with opponents of culling.

The heavy criticism handed down by last year's expert panel was a major embarrassment; ministers were keen to avoid a repeat, stressing lessons were learnt.

But while this year's cull does not face the same exacting scrutiny, it still looks set to cause a headache for Defra.

The department has yet to announce how many badgers were shot, but it is thought the figure in Gloucestershire was far below the target.

If so, the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to allow any national roll-out of the cull.


The challenge arose from a decision to sanction a second year of "controlled shooting" of free-roaming badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset as part of efforts to tackle tuberculosis in cattle.

The government and farmers insist culling is necessary to tackle TB in livestock. This year's cull came to an end last week.

BBC West's politics correspondent Paul Barltrop said: "It's thought marksmen achieved their target in West Somerset, but fell well short in West Gloucestershire."

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