Badger cull to go ahead

Posted on the 12th July 2012

The Badger Trust today lost its High Court bid to prevent the mass slaughter of badgers in England. The Trust had argued that: the cull will not prevent the spread of the disease and could make matters worse; there was a significant cost risk to farmers that had not been adequately assessed; and that Natural England should not have been given responsibility for issuing licences as that should have fallen to the Environment Secretary. However, Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the legal challenge failed on all three counts.

Dairy farmers argue that badgers are responsible for passing bovine TB to cows, and that a badger cull would help prevent the killing of thousands of dairy cows every year – animals who will be ‘culled’ anyway when they are no longer deemed to be adequately profitable. The fact that cow-to-cow transmission is more common and is not being properly dealt with gets lost in the clamour for a badger cull.

Moreover, many more dairy cows are killed each year because of lameness, mastitis or infertility than are killed because of bovine TB. Yet dairy farmers focus on the disease where they can scapegoat wildlife, rather than on the more devastating conditions that point to their own failure to improve welfare.

Animal Aid believes that this government’s zeal for a badger cull comes from its close links to the farming community – all four Defra Ministers are farmers or have close ties with the industry. Despite launching a public consultation in 2010, it has steadfastly refused to act in accordance with the outcome. An overwhelming 95 per cent of respondents opposed the cull. The Welsh Assembly Government did listen to these views and, having examined the scientific evidence, abandoned plans for a cull. It favours a vaccination programme instead.

Following this failed legal challenge, farmers in England will be licensed to shoot free-running badgers at night – a strategy that is likely to cause great suffering, and may increase the incidence of bTB. Neither cows nor badgers will benefit, but farmers will be relieved, as the spotlight once again focuses on killing wildlife, not on what they should do to improve the terrible welfare problems inside UK dairy farms.

The Badger Trust says it will study the judgment closely and consider the next steps in its campaign to protect the badger from a pointless cull. An appeal is possible.

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