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Badger Trust prepares way for legal challenge to English cull

9 February 2012

The Badger Trust has said this morning that it has written to DEFRA giving notice of the grounds of a legal challenge it intends to pursue against a planned cull of badgers in England to reduce bovine TB.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said in July that she was “strongly minded” to allow controlled culling of badgers by farmers and landowners in England (see, 21 July 2011). A final decision is expected at the end of next week.

David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said today that the trust had responded in detail to both DEFRA’s consultation papers on culling and suggested viable alternatives.

“However, our concerns that the culls proposed will actually spread the disease have not been heeded.

“In the light of this and our concerns over the legality of the decision, we would be failing in our duty to badgers if we did not pursue a legal challenge despite the difficulty and cost risks involved.

“If there is an opportunity to save many thousands of healthy badgers, as there is here, we must take it on behalf of the many local badger groups and supporters on whose behalf the Badger Trust works. If successful it would also save farmers the expense of a policy which would not benefit them.

“Once again the Badger Trust leads the way in defence of this iconic indigenous mammal by challenging the legal basis of the government’s decision.”

Williams said that as a result of the Badger Trust’s legal challenge to earlier plans for a cull in west Wales, a final decision had been suspended pending the outcome of a “comprehensive scientific review” ordered by the new Welsh government.

In its letter to DEFRA, the trust gave notice of the grounds it would pursue if the government did not abandon its plans.

These were that the culls would not meet the legal test of ‘preventing the spread of disease’ in the areas being licensed and that DEFRA’s cost impact assessment was flawed.

A further ground was that the guidance issued by DEFRA to Natural England was invalid in that “killing badgers is not in fact one of Natural England’s functions, which are mainly focused on maintaining biodiversity”.

The trust said that this was the case even if DEFRA made Natural England responsible for the administrative arrangements behind the cull.

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