Campaign group Badger Trust has won the right to challenge a High Court ruling that the Welsh Assembly Government’s targeted badger cull is lawful. The organisation is calling for ministers to await the outcome of the appeal before pressing ahead with a mass badger cull in Wales.
Campaign group Badger Trust has won the right to challenge a High Court ruling that the Welsh Assembly Government’s targeted badger cull is lawful.
Accepting that the Badger Trust had “real prospects of success” in its challenge, Lord Justice Elias has granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, ordered an urgent hearing of the matter, and put a protective costs regime in place.
According to the trust, growing numbers of farmers are are opposed to the cull and fear it will cause an overall increase in TB on their lands. With this in mind, the trust hopes Welsh Assembly ministers will await the outcome of the appeal before pressing ahead with a cull, despite an Assembly announcement that it could begin “any day now”.
Representing the trust, Gwendolen Morgan of London law firm Bindmans LLP said: “By law badgers may only be culled if such culling would ‘eliminate or substantially reduce’ the incidence of TB in cattle”
According to Miss Morgan, the trust will argue that the High Court made an error of law in holding:
- that the words “substantially reduce” in section 21(2)(b) of the Animal Health Act 1981 meant simply any reduction in TB that was “more than merely minor or trivial”; and
- that section 21(2) could lawfully be exercised without the minister doing any balancing act to consider the harm involved (i.e. killing over 2,000 badgers) against the potential benefit (which the minister’s own model predicted to be a reduction in the rate of cattle herd breakdowns of just 0.3% of farms annually).
She said: “The success of the Badger Trust’s application to appeal to the Court of Appeal calls into question the minister’s plans to embark on this costly, ill-conceived cull, which is likely to do more harm than good in terms of TB reduction. Indeed, although it has largely passed under the radar, new cattle-focused measures are already beginning to make an impact in Wales and TB rates are quietly falling. The Badger Trust hopes that the Assembly Government will take this opportunity to pause for thought.”
Badger Trust chairman David Williams said: “We are delighted that the Court of Appeal has found that our case has real prospects of success and we look forward to the forthcoming hearing. In the meantime, we call upon the Welsh Assembly Government to defer the cull until the appeal is heard because, if we win and the Order to cull is quashed, a short-lived cull will mean an overall increase in cattle TB rather than any reduction.
“When similar large-scale culls were conducted in England, in the first year they achieved no benefits for farmers inside culled areas, but consistently caused large (47-95%) increases in cattle TB on adjoining lands. Only later, when culls had been repeated several times, did modest benefits emerge (though these benefits remain dwarfed by the financial costs of the culling). Starting the Welsh cull, and then stopping again would be devastating for farmers as well as badgers.”