Badgers’ expectations dashed

BadgerR (o.t.a. Badger Trust) v. SoS for Environment and Rural Affairs, Kenneth Parker J, Admin Ct, 29 August 2014 read judgement

This blog has covered the various twists and turns, both scientific and legal, of Defra’s attempts to reduce bovine TB by culling badgers: see the list of posts below. Today’s decision in the Administrative Court is the most recent.

You may remember a pilot cull in Somerset and Gloucester took place in 2013-14. Its target was to remove at least 70% of the badger population. By that standard, it failed massively. In March 2014, an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) concluded that in terms of effectiveness, shooting badgers removed less than 24.8% in Somerset and less than 37.1% in Gloucestershire. As for humaneness, something between 7.4% and 22.8% of badgers shot were still alive after 5 min – so the clean instant death much vaunted prior to the cull was by no means universal.

The current case concerned the future of the IEP in proposed “pilot” culls. The Badger Trust challenged Defra’s decision to extend culling elsewhere without keeping the IEP in place, and without further conclusions from the IEP to be taken into account on effectiveness and humaneness.

Continue reading

The latest challenge to the badger cull extension

BadgerUpdated: The extended badger cull has been called off after Natural England revoked licence over failure to meet greatly reduced targets (November 28). Experts say that the failed cull may have increased TB risk for cattle.

A new challenge was filed yesterday to the badger cull extension presently under way in the South West of England.

An eight week extension to the Gloucestershire pilot cull was granted by Natural England after the initial trial period failed to reach its 70% target, and began on 23 October.  Brian May’s Save Me organisation, represented by John Cooper QC, has put in an “exceptionally urgent” application for judicial review of the extension of the licence for the cull in Gloucestershire. The Secretary of State For Environment Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, and Natural England are named as defendants. Other interested parties are the National Farmers Union and the Badger Trust.

According to the Save Me organisation, the call for an urgent review is based on the reasoning that with the Gloucestershire extension already operative, and unless this is urgently addressed the period of the extension might elapse before a formal review can be applied. Continue reading

All about killing badgers

R (o.t.a Badger Trust) v. Defra, Ouseley J, 12 July 2012, read judgment, and on appeal, CA, 11 September 2012, not yet available online.

It is impossible to drive through the narrow and high-hedged lanes of Herefordshire without coming across the sad and inevitable outcome of car meeting badger. One estimate is that we may lose as many as 50,000 badgers a year this way. But this case is about whether we should kill a lot more badgers – deliberately.

For many years there has been a debate about whether, and if so, to what extent, badgers cause the spread of tuberculosis in cattle, and, if it does, what should we do about it. Recently, a decision was made by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to cull some of them. And this challenge is to the lawfulness of that decision.

At which point we immediately run up against a bit of an institutional accident. Defra, is, when you scratch it, the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food spliced together with bits of the old Department of Environment. And, a bit like the sad nocturnal collision of badger and vehicle, badgers tend to come off worse when farming interests encounter nature, particularly where, as in this context, the science appears equivocal. That sounds rather contentious, but is not meant to. Let me explain why.

Continue reading