Badger Trust takes court action over culls

The Badger Trust is today (9 October) taking the government to court over the lack of independent monitoring of the relaunched badger culls in Somerset and Gloucester.

The conservation group is being heard at the Court of Appeal as it asserts that the secretary of state for the environment, Elizabeth Truss, has unlawfully failed to put in place an Independent Expert Panel to monitor and analyse the results of the continued culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2014.

The Badger Trust contends that the secretary of state promised to put such a panel in place when a roll-out of the culling was being considered, adding that “there is no lawful reason for the secretary of state to resile from that promise”. It believes that a panel is needed for a proper independent assessment of the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the culling operation, something that would be needed before any lawful decision could be taken to continue with further culls around the country.

Professor Tim Coulson, a member of the 2013 Independent Expert Panel, welcomed the appeal: “The Independent Expert Panel’s report states clearly the rationale for ensuring that independent monitoring and the use of the statistically robust sample sizes and analytical methods, as used in the 2013 culls, are followed in further culling exercises. If this scientific advice is ignored, then the data collected during the 2014 culls will be insufficiently reliable for assessment of humaneness and effectiveness. This means that farmers, veterinarians and scientists intimately involved in controlling bovine TB will be denied the information necessary to allow them to assess whether the IEP’s recommended changes to the culling process have corrected the failings identified by the pilot culls.”

Dominic Dyer CEO of the Badger Trust and policy advisor at Care for the Wild, added: “The refusal of Defra secretary of state Elizabeth Truss to put in place any independent monitoring of the badger culls currently being undertaken in Somerset and Gloucestershire is a national disgrace.

“The government assured us that the badger cull would be carried out more humanely this year, but within a week of it starting, Secret World Wildlife Rescue reported receiving a dead badger from the Somerset cull zone which had been shot in the abdomen. In the opinion of their consultant veterinary surgeon, Dr Elizabeth Mullineaux MRCVS, the shot had clearly not been on target and has been unlikely to result in the badger’s immediate death. We can be certain that this is not an isolated case and many other badgers are being killed by incompetent marksmen in similar ways, which is cruel and unacceptable.”

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