You are here

No need for 'balancing exercise' in badger cull decision

19 April 2010

There was no obligation on the Welsh minister for rural affairs, Elin Jones, to carry out a balancing exercise before deciding whether there should be a large-scale cull of badgers, the High Court has ruled.

Jones made an order under the Animal Health Act 1981 last year, providing for a non-selective cull of badgers in north Pembrokeshire, Camarthenshire and Ceredigion to reduce bovine TB.

The court heard that TB was a particularly serious problem in Wales, with 11,300 cattle being slaughtered last year and £24m paid to farmers in compensation. The Badger Trust applied to the High Court for judicial review, accepting that TB was a problem but arguing that badgers should be vaccinated.

Giving judgment in R (on the application of the Badger Trust) v The Welsh Ministers [2010] EWHC 768(Admin), Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said that under section 21 of the Animal Health Act 1981 there was no need to balance the harm caused by the destruction of badgers against the benefits the cull would bring.

Lloyd Jones J said section 21 of the Act created preconditions which had to be satisfied before the power could be exercised.

“The minister must be satisfied that there exists among badgers in an area tuberculosis which is being transferred to cattle. The minister must also be satisfied that destruction of badgers is necessary in order to eliminate or substantially reduce the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle in that area.

“If those preconditions are satisfied the minister has a discretion to make an order. However, these pre-conditions do not include the obligation contended for by the claimant. Had it been the intention of Parliament to impose such a duty, it could be expected to have said so expressly.”

Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said the claimants argued that the balancing exercise was also required to comply with article 9 of the Bern Convention.

However, since the convention had not been implemented into UK law, the judge said that no such duty arose.

He added that he did not see the situation as one where ambiguity in legislation justified resort to the text of a non-implemented treaty.

“The claimant has not taken issue with the account given by the defendant as to the extent and severity of bovine tuberculosis in Wales or with the minister’s statement of its economic consequences,” he said.

Mr Justice Lloyd Jones refused the judicial review.

Categorised in:

Police & Prisons Costs Local government