Legal challenge to reinstate badger cull panel fails

Badger cull campaigners have been dealt a fresh blow.
Badger cull campaigners have been dealt a fresh blow.
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Badger campaigners have issued a new plea to Environment Secretary Liz Truss to stop the latest badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset, after losing a High Court legal bid.

The Badger Trust’s 11th-hour court battle arose from the Government go-ahead for a second year of “controlled shooting” of free-roaming badgers in the two counties.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is using the two pilot schemes to test whether the shooting method can be used in other parts of England to tackle tuberculosis in cattle.

An independent expert panel (IEP) monitored the first year of the four-year pilot programme. It reported that controlled shooting could not deliver the level of culling needed to bring about a reduction in bovine TB and was not humane.

Defra decided to continue the programme this year without an IEP in place, leading to accusations by the Badger Trust of an unlawful breach of a “legitimate expectation” that the IEP would monitor the entire pilot cull.

David Wolfe QC, appearing for the Trust, argued at London’s High Court that Defra had not simply “moved the goalposts” but was “sacking the referee”.

Rejecting the accusation, Mr Justice Kenneth Parker ruled that there were “no plausible grounds” to support the legitimate expectation claim.

The judge accepted Defra’s argument that it had always been intended that the IEP would only be in place for the first culling period, adding that the Environment Secretary believed the IEP report had shown “a clear way forward”.

Ms Truss had taken steps to implement its recommendations, and she was legally entitled to conclude further participation by the IEP was “not necessary or proportionate”.

The Trust, which must pay £10,000 towards Defra’s legal costs, can still ask the appeal court to hear the case.

Labelling last year’s culls a failure, the Trust’s chief executive Dominic Dyer said: “The only sensible option for the Secretary of State is to call a halt to these pilots, and the potentially unnecessary and inhumane deaths of hundreds of badgers.”