Campaigners go to court to overturn cull decision
Wildlife campaigners are today expected to launch a High Court legal challenge against the Government's proposed badger cull.
The Badger Trust hope the two-day judicial review will overturn what it believes are unscientific plans to shoot the animals in England. Trials are earmarked for West Somerset and West Gloucestershire.
Lawyers for the trust will ask the court to quash the decision to authorise culling made by the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last December.
According to the trust, culling will spread the disease amongst livestock – vaccination is its preferred option.
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The trust hopes it can repeat its 2010 victory over the Welsh Assembly when a judicial review saw the plans to cull overturned.
The Welsh Government has dumped its bid to cull and will instead vaccinate badgers.
David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said the charity had a legal duty to mount the challenge.
He said: "We see it as our duty to use all legal means of persuasion and scientific argument to overturn this decision which risks making a bad situation even worse."
Gwendolen Morgan, solicitor for the trust, said culling would cause rather than prevent disease in cattle and therefore failed the legal test for licensing.
She added: "In terms of its cost-benefit analysis, Defra made a decision on basis A, when in reality the plan may well be rolled out on basis B.
"As a matter of public law, that is unlawful."
The trust argues government guidance given to Natural England who are responsible for licensing was legally flawed.
They claim killing badgers was not one of Natural England's original functions and legally culling badgers to prevent disease lies in the hands of the Secretary of State.
Ms Morgan said: "Defra's culling plans are bad for farmers, bad for cattle, and bad for badgers. The plans cost millions, and threaten to prompt rather than prevent the spread of disease."
Humane Society International/UK backs the legal move.
Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director at the society, said: "As a plan to eradicate tuberculosis in cattle, it lacks any scientific credibility. Consequently, the badger cull finds itself opposed by a host of scientific, conservation and welfare experts and the subject of multiple legal challenges."
One Cornish farmer, who asked not to be named, said vaccination was costly and insisted the cull was necessary to protect livestock and prevent farmers going out of business.
He said: "We're not talking about wiping out the whole of the badger population just reducing numbers to beat the disease.
"Vaccination will cost millions of taxpayers' pounds and we have no idea how effective it will be."
A decision from the High Court is expected in several weeks' time.