Plans for a controversial cull of badgers in west Wales have been abandoned following a successful appeal by campaign group Badger Trust. However, rural affairs minister Elin Jones has stated her continued committment to the eradication of bovine TB in Wales.

Plans for a controversial cull of badgers in west Wales have been abandoned following a successful appeal by campaign group Badger Trust. However, rural affairs minister Elin Jones has stated her continued committment to the eradication of bovine TB in Wales.

Lord Justice Elias granted the group leave to appeal a previous High Court ruling that the Welsh Assembly Government's targeted badger cull was lawfulThe legal win for Badger Trust comes after Lord Justice Elias granted the group leave to appeal a previous High Court ruling that the Welsh Assembly Government’s targeted badger cull was lawful.

The proposed cull, originally announced in January as part of the Welsh Assembly Government‘s TB Eradication Programme, was due to take place in a pilot area of West Wales.

However, in the Court of Appeal hearing before Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Stanley Burnton sitting in Cardiff, the Badger Trust successfully argued that the High Court had 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, once it arose, the discretion to make an order under 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).
  • In addition, the trust argued that the ministers erred in making an order for the whole of Wales having only consulted on the basis of the Pembrokeshire Intensive Action Pilot Area and on the basis of evidence which, at best, supported culling in the IAPA only. The Welsh ministers conceded the appeal by reference to this point and the court unanimously agreed that it rendered the order unlawful notwithstanding their findings on the first two points.

Elin Jones: DisappointedBadger Trust chairman David Williams said he was “delighted” with the outcome, and claimed: “The Badger Trust exists to secure the welfare of our native protected species, the badger, and we will continue to do so through lawful means. We are pleased to see that the protection offered by wildlife law cannot be vitiated by political smoke and mirrors and that the court saw the issues so clearly.”

In an official statement released earlier today, Welsh minister for rural affairs Elin Jones said: “I am disappointed with this judgement particularly as the court recognises the serious impact that bovine TB is having in Wales and the need to tackle the disease.

“We will now need to consider the judges’ decision in detail before deciding our next steps. It is however clear that if we don’t tackle all sources of infection we will not eradicate it. Farmers, their families, and our rural communities are suffering from the devastating consequences of this disease and I remain committed to its eradication.”

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