A landmark court battle over the controversial badger cull is underway in England, with animal activists challenging not only the science behind the cull, but also plans by the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to extend the badger killing to Gloucestershire and Somerset.
The judicial review has been brought by Tom Langton, an ecologist and member of the Badger Trust. It comprises two legal thrusts: failures by Natural England − the government body in charge of protecting wildlife − to properly do its research before issuing licenses to shoot badgers, and a decision by Defra in 2017 to grant more culling licences in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset.
A judicial review is a challenge to the way in which a public body arrived at its conclusions, rather than the conclusions themselves.
If a judge rules in the activists’ favour, the cull licences will be quashed, forcing the government to rethink its approach to controlling bovine tuberculosis. This will affect huge numbers of animals and farmers.
“We support this very important legal challenge,” said Animal Survival International (formerly Political Animal Lobby) spokesperson, David Barritt. “In spite of the killing of thousands and thousands of badgers, the incidence of bovine tuberculosis continues to climb in England, leading experts to conclude that the badger cull is having no impact on the disease whatsoever.”
According to the Badger Trust, 30,000 badgers have been killed since 2013 as a result of the Defra’s policy to cull badgers. The policy has cost taxpayers over £50 million or £1,100 per badger killed. This is despite the government having no reliable evidence to prove that killing badgers has any impact on lowering infections of bovine tuberculosis in cattle.
ASI’s sister organisation, Network for Animals (NFA), is a member of Team Badger, a coalition of national, local and grass roots animal and wildlife welfare organisations representing millions of compassionate British citizens. NFA also supports an affiliated organisation, Blue Badger.