Brian May launches legal challenge to Gloucestershire badger cull

Brian May
Image caption Brian May is vice-president of the RSPCA

Rock guitarist Brian May has launched a legal challenge at the High Court to try to stop the culling of badgers.

The Queen musician's Save Me organisation has filed an "urgent" judicial review claim, calling for an immediate halt to culling.

In October, Natural England granted an eight-week extension to the cull after fewer animals than the original target were killed in the initial six weeks.

A lawyer said he hoped a review could be heard as soon as this Friday.

A Save Me spokesman said the decision to grant an extension in Gloucestershire went against the advice of Natural England's own scientific advisor.

They claimed an urgent review was needed because the extension was already in operation and the period of the extension might elapse before a formal review could be applied.

The eight-week extension to the cull is due to end on 18 December.

John Cooper QC, who is representing the group, said: "From the material I have seen already, it is clear that appropriate procedures have not been taken in relation to this action, which will inevitably lead to the destruction of more wildlife if the government remains unchallenged.

"In all the circumstances and for the grounds we have set out, we assert that the decisions made by Defra, the Secretary of State and Natural England, separately and or cumulatively were unreasonable and should be immediately revoked."

'Consequences to wildlife'

The Save Me claim names Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Natural England as defendants.

Other Interested Parties are named as the National Farmers' Union and the Badger Trust.

A Defra spokesperson said: "Natural England's experts carefully considered all the information and recommended the licence to continue culling should be granted.

"This was in line with the chief veterinary officer's advice, which has been backed by the British Veterinary Association.

"We need to do everything we can to get on top of bovine TB which is spreading across the country and devastating our cattle and dairy industries."

Ministers and the NFU say culling badgers will curb TB in cattle, but protesters assert it has little effect.

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