Farming News - Badger Trust appeal goes ahead
Badger Trust appeal goes ahead
The Badger Trust has been granted permission to appeal against the High Court ruling that put an end to its legal challenge against the government's badger culls in the South-West of England.
In late August the administrative court rejected the Trust's case that Defra's plans to continue culling badgers in areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire without independent oversight had broken legal commitments. The Trust claims that, without an independent monitoring body, no evidence from the culls could be reliably used to justify rolling the policy out into new areas, as is the government's intention.
However, in August, Justice Kenneth Parker ruled that there were "no plausible grounds" to believe that Defra's commitments constituted a 'legitimate expectation' of independent oversight of future culls.
The government and NFU maintain that culling badgers is an essential part of bovine TB control policy, arguing that this will tackle the 'wildlife reservoir' of the disease. However, independent scientists have warned that culling badgers can make "no meaningful contribution" to bTB control.
Defra ministers have stated that monitoring by government quango AHVLA and cull licensing body Natural England will constitute independent monitoring during the second year of badger culling. Ministers maintain that the Independent Expert Panel charged with assessing last year's cull was only ever intended to operate in the first year of culling.
The IEP found that the cull had failed to meet two of three self-set targets.
However, Oxford University professor and IEP-member Timothy Coulson railed against the government's decision. He said, "I am tempted to speculate that the Government no longer wants to know whether the pilots are effective or humane." Prof Coulson also speculated that legitimate scientific concerns are "being wilfully ignored by Government" and added, "If culling worked I'd be fully supportive of them rolling it out, but all the evidence is that it does not."
On Wednesday, Lord Justice Maurice Kay granted the Badger Trust permission to appeal against last month's High Court ruling. The court ordered the appeal hearing to be heard as soon as practicable.
Badger Trust spokesperson Jeff Hayden, who was in court, said, "Once again, our persistence has paid off. We now have a further opportunity to ensure the culls have independent scientific oversight, as the Badger Trust understood was promised by the Secretary of State.
"We are encouraged by the fact that the Court found that there was merit in the appeal, despite the culls having started only days ago."
It is unclear whether the hearing will take place before the initial six week window of culling, which began earlier this week, comes to a close.