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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Bindmans claims credit for badger cull delay

Bindmans claims credit for badger cull delay


Letter before action served on Natural England at end of last week

Bindmans, which acts for the Badger Trust, has said the government decided to postpone its cull of badgers in the West Country after the firm served a letter before action on Natural England threatening a judicial review. Natural England has the task of issuing licences for the cull.

The letter before action was served on Friday of last week, before DEFRA’s announcement yesterday that the cull was being postponed because farmers had run out of time to kill the 70 per cent of badgers required.

The Court of Appeal last month rejected a judicial review brought by the Badger Trust challenging Defra’s plans.

In an ex tempore judgment in R (on the application of the Badger Trust) v Secretary of State for the Environment [2012], Lord Justices Laws, Rimer and Sullivan ruled that the cull was lawful.

Gwendolen Morgan, solicitor at Bindmans, said the central issue was one of statutory construction, with the trust arguing that Section 21 of the Animal Health Act should be applied, with its provisions on safety and welfare.

Instead she said the appeal judges ruled that Natural England could issue licences to farmers in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset to cull badgers under Section 10 of the Badgers Act, to prevent the spread of bovine TB.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson said yesterday that despite a “greatly increased effort over the last few days and weeks”, farmers in the cull areas had concluded that they could not be confident that it would be possible to remove enough badgers based on their increased numbers and the lateness of the season.

“It would be wrong to go ahead if those on the ground cannot be confident of removing at least 70 per cent of the populations,” Paterson said.

The minister said he had received a letter from the president of the NFU, on behalf of the companies coordinating the culls, explaining why they did not feel they could go ahead this year and requesting that the pilots are postponed until next summer.

“In these circumstances, it is the right thing to do and, as the people who have to deliver this policy on the ground and work within the science, I respect their decision,” Paterson said.

“The government is determined to tackle bovine TB by all the means available to us. Now, in the next few months, we will ensure that the pilot culls can be implemented effectively, in the best possible conditions, with the right resources. “Having looked at all the evidence over many years, I am utterly convinced that badger control is the right thing to do, and indeed the higher than expected badger numbers only serve to underline the need for urgent action.

“I remain fully committed to working with the farming industry to ensure that the pilot culls can be delivered effectively, safely and humanely next summer.”