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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Date for badger cull challenge set

A DATE has been set for a legal challenge to a proposed badger cull.

The judicial review is due to take place on June 25 and June 26 after the Badger Trust challenged the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ proposed cull, saying the move would not prevent the spread of the disease and could in fact increase the numbers of animals affected.

Badgers are a protected species, but farmers and the government have said a cull is necessary to tackle the disease.

The Badger Trust has also claimed there was a significant cost risk to farmers, and that Defra’s cost-impact assessment was “flawed”.

The third basis for its legal challenge is that Natural England should not have been given responsibility for issuing licences to cull, that function lying with the Environment Secretary.

The review is set to be heard in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, in the Administrative Court.

The trust’s solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan, of Bindmans LLP, said: ”We have identified some serious flaws in the way by which the Secretary of State reached her decision to cull badgers.

“Given that Defra’s proposals come at an enormous cost to farmers, and threaten to prompt rather than prevent the spread of disease, we hope that this ill-conceived decision will be struck down by the court.”

Dave Williams, Badger Trust’s chairman, added: “The listing of Badger Trust’s judicial review comes just days after new peer-reviewed scientific evidence was published in Nature, which suggests that approximately one third of cattle TB tests may be inaccurate due to the presence of liver fluke.

“This has major consequences for the transmission of TB from cattle to cattle.

“Badger Trust has written to Defra to ask them to address the issue as a matter of priority.

“Currently, the Secretary of State is expending huge amounts of taxpayers' money on a side show, when the real problem is cattle-cattle transmission and inaccurate TB testing.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “Bovine TB is a chronic and devastating disease.

“It forced the slaughter of 25,000 cattle in 2010 alone, and is taking a terrible toll on our farmers and rural communities.

“Nobody wants to cull badgers.

“But no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated the disease in cattle without tackling it in wildlife too.

“We are investing in the development of usable vaccines but sadly these are still years away, and we have to take action now.

“Unless TB is effectively dealt with it will cost taxpayers around £1bn over the next 10 years.”

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