The latest challenge to the badger cull extension

27 November 2013 by

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.

The action will challenge the granting of the approval by Natural England against the recommendation of its own Scientific Advisor, Professor David Macdonald, Head of Natural England Scientific Committee. He stated according to Minutes that the view that killing more badgers would lead to better disease control was “not easily reconciled with the evidence” (see my post on the lack of response to Macdonald’s advice).

The Organisation alleges that the decision by Natural England was made without taking reference to the Independent Experts Assessment, therefore that the decision making process which resulted in the culling period extension  was flawed. It was unreasonable in that NE and DEFRA had failed to apply the scrutiny required of them, and had failed to carry out an appropriate consultation.  Jonathan Cooper QC is quoted on the organisation’s website as saying

From the material I have seen already, it is clear that appropriate procedures have not been taken in relation to this action, which will inevitably lead to the destruction of more wildlife if the Government remains unchallenged.

In all the circumstances and for the grounds we have set out, we assert that the decisions made by DEFRA, the Secretary of State and Natural England, separately and or cumulatively were unreasonable and should be immediately revoked.

For an excellent and balanced account of the cull and our relationship with Britain’s last remaining large carnivore, read Patrick Barkham’s Badgerlands, Granta 2013

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1 comment;

  1. Anyoldiron says:

    Just a couple of pages from the 40 I have regarding this Subject. All recorded in Hansard over the years.
    Hansard, Badgers and Bovine TB Badgers Thursday 8 December 1988
    Mr. Hardy : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will arrange for the area of some farms where a breakdown or breakdowns involving bovine tuberculosis has occurred to be exempt from badger control to enable an assessment of the control programme to be made.
    Mr. Donald Thompson : An experimental area already exists where badgers are not removed when TB breakdowns in cattle occur. This area, which is in Gloucestershire, contains 18 farms which are not subject to badger control.
    The creation of additional areas comparable with the
    Gloucestershire study area was considered by Professor
    Column 240
    Dunnet in his review of the badger control strategy in 1986. He concluded that the cost of maintaining such areas made the proposal impractical.
    The current badger control strategy is that recommended by Professor Dunnet. It is kept under review, but in accordance with Professor Dunnet’s recommendation it needs to operate for at least three years before a reliable review of its effects on the extent of herd breakdowns can be carried out.
    The best results are already recorded in Hansard 17th January 1995 Column 447.
    A Mr Heppell asked of the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evidence he has that the spread of bovine tuberculosis is caused by badgers?
    Mrs Browning answered on his behalf, “Experimental control areas in Dorset and Gloucestershire, set up in 1975, (Yes, all that long time ago) provided evidence of the causal link between infection in badgers and cattle herds. After removal of the badgers, there were no further cattle TB herd breakdowns in these areas for many years. Two independent reports. By Lord Zuckerman in 1980 and Professor Dunnet in 1986, concluded from the evidence obtained under laboratory conditions at the Central; Veterinary Laboratory and from the field that badgers can and do harbour bovine tuberculosis and represent a potential threat to cattle. All cattle tuberculosis breakdowns are the subject of detailed epidemiological investigation by MAFF veterinary staff. These show that badgers are implicated in at least three-quarters of cattle herd tuberculosis breakdowns in south-west England.
    Mr Heppell then asked how many badgers he estimates have been culled as a result of bovine tuberculosis in each of the three years in England?
    Mrs Browning replied that the number of badgers killed in removal operations as a result of bovine tuberculosis in England in the last three years is as follows
    1992 1,054
    1993 1,094
    1994 1,674

    Recorded in Hansard for the 15th March 2005 Column WA 129 the question was asked, “How many cattle have been slaughtered in the past four years because of bovine tuberculosis infection in Cornwall”. (Cornwall alone)
    Year Cattle Slaughtered
    2001 801
    2002 2,917
    2003 2,414
    2004 2,351
    However, please note in 2001, the TB testing and control programme was largely suspended due to the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. When testing resumed in 2002, resources were concentrated on herds with overdue TB tests which would have had a long period in which to contract the disease. Also the proportion of high risk herds tested immediately after the FMD outbreak was greater than that prior to the outbreak. As a result, data for 2001 and 2002 are not compatible with other years.

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