Badger Trust gives notice of legal challenge

Posted on the 10th February 2012

In a letter to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) , the Badger Trust has outlines the legal challenge it will pursue if Defra does not abandon its plans to kill badgers.

David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said: ‘The Badger Trust has responded in detail to both Defra’s consultation papers on culling and suggested viable alternatives. However, our concerns that the culls proposed will actually spread the disease have not been heeded. In the light of this and our concerns over the legality of the decision, we would be failing in our duty to badgers if we did not pursue a legal challenge despite the difficulty and cost risks involved.’

In April 2011 the Badger Trust, with the support of Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, embarked on legal proceedings to quash a second Order of the Welsh Assembly Government to destroy badgers in west Wales. As a result of this challenge, the matter was suspended pending the outcome of a comprehensive scientific review ordered by the new Welsh Government.

In its current challenge, the Badger Trust considers that:

    • The culls proposed will not meet the strict legal test of ‘preventing the spread of disease’ in the areas being licensed, and may spread the disease further.
    • Defra’s cost impact assessment underpinning the decision is flawed because the cost assumptions are based on the free-shooting option which is assumed to be much cheaper. However, Defra recently confirmed that, if after the first year of piloting the plans, free-shooting is ruled out for being inhumane, ineffective or unsafe, then farmers will be legally obliged to continue the cull on a much more costly ‘trap and shoot’ basis for the remaining years.
    • The guidance, which Defra issued to Natural England (NE), is invalid. By law, Defra is supposed to advise NE about how it should exercise its functions. However, killing badgers is not one of their functions and so the guidance is invalid.

The Badger Trust will issue a statement on whether proceedings are necessary once it has studied Defra’s response, which is expected by 17 February.

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