Badger Trust loses appeal. Pilot culls to commence

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The Badger Trust’s bid to prevent a cull going ahead in England this autumn has failed. Sitting on Tuesday 11 September, the three Court of Appeal judges – Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Rimer and Lord Justice Sullivan – unanimously rejected the appeal, which had argued that statutory powers were being incorrectly used by the government. Subject to one final legal barrier, culling is likely to start this autumn.

The Badger Trust had appealed against Mr Justice Ouseley’s decision in July to uphold government plans to progress the pilot cull – see previous Pest story.

Last year bovine TB led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle, and to help eradicate the disease it needs to be tackled in badgers and cost the UK economy nearly £100 million.

The National Farmers Union has applauded the ruling, describing it as a ‘critically important for cattle farmers and their families’ in tackling bovine tuberculosis and saying that it will now work to help those delivering the two pilot culls to ensure they that they are safe, effective and humane.”

The early decision by the court, which had been expected to reserve judgement, should mean that culling starts in the two pilot areas of west Gloucestershire and west Somerset this year.

Natural England will be in charge of issuing the necessary licences. Anyone carrying out the actual shooting of badgers under licence (rather than just assisting e.g. by holding a spotlight) will be required to demonstrate an appropriate level of marksmanship, through appropriate training. In addition, all persons shooting badgers under licence must have received specific ‘top-up’ training on the humane shooting of badgers.

Legally approved – but will culling commence?

One further legal barrier also remains – a complaint to the Bern Convention by the Humane Society International UK, however Defra says it is confident its plans are consistent with the Bern requirements.

The argument may still have some way to run as the number of celebrities adding their voices to the various campaigns to halt the badger cull continues to grow.

None more so than guitarist Brian May who caused something of a political storm at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. He sported a badger motif on one arm of the outfit he wore and a fox on the other. 

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