Appeal challenge rejected by badger charity
The Badger Trust has been challenged to drop its legal appeal against Government plans to cull the animals in the South West.
The challenge was made by the newly-formed farmer organisation, the Badger Welfare Association (BWA). It was immediately rejected and the case is expected to go to the Court of Appeal next month.
"Permission to appeal against the court's decision to allow the pilot culls has been granted and we have absolutely every intention of carrying the legal process through to its conclusion," said a trust spokesman.
The challenge to drop the appeal was made by the BWA's Bryan Hill at the second of two inaugural meetings, held to drum up support and explain its strategy of targeted culls of diseased badgers.
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He told an audience of 60 at Zeal Monachorum, near Crediton: "I am making a direct appeal to the Badger Trust not to put in their appeal against what Farming Minister Jim Paice is doing. Let the pilot culls go ahead. If they fail, so be it."
The BWA's campaign to eliminate bovine TB is formed around Okehampton farmer Mr Hill's 15-year study of badger behaviour and populations and his expertise in identifying diseased badger setts.
In a two-hour meeting Mr Hill described the current TB situation as the "biggest crisis facing farming since foot and mouth disease". The current wet summer was proving near-perfect conditions for the spread of TB, with high water-tables and badgers consequently living above ground.
He outlined the recent history of a proposed badger cull in Wales, where a successful challenge by the Badger Trust had seen the plans scrapped in favour of a badger vaccination campaign. "That will result in farmers facing at least 10 years more of misery," he said.
Mr Hill stressed any BWA action would not be in competition to the Government's proposed two pilot culls, but in complement to them.
Explaining the BWA's strategy, Richard Gard, of the Healthy Badgers – Healthy Cattle Group, said the aim was to form local management groups to chart and monitor TB in badgers. There would be major groups in Devon and Somerset.
Sheree-Ann Virgin, the BWA's solicitor, said once infected setts had been identified, application would be made to the Department of the Environment to cull a trial area, using carbon monoxide as the method, observed by Ministry experts and specialists.
"Healthy badger setts would be left alone," she stressed. "It would be incumbent on the Government to consider our application. If it were not allowed, we would consider a judicial review."
She hoped the first application could be made around the middle of September.