THE badger cull in Gloucestershire will go ahead without an Independent Expert Panel after a judicial review to halt this year’s culling failed.
The High Court today, Friday, handed down its judgment in the Badger Trust's judicial review of the Secretary of State's decision to continue the pilot culls without independent oversight.
Earlier this year the Government abandoned plans to extend the badger cull to other areas of England.
However, despite a report by the independent expert panel which said the culls in the two pilot areas were not effective and also raised questions about their humaneness, the Secretary of State decided to continue the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, although without an independent oversight to assess their future performance.
Commenting after today’s decision Dominic Dyer, CEO of Badger Trust, said the Trust was considering its options in respect of an appeal.
"This judgment does not detract from the serious public concerns over the continuation of the cull, including the most recent leaks regarding potentially unlawful and unsafe activity undertaken by culling contractors during the 2013 culls,” added Mr Dyer.
“Given the indisputable failure of the 2013 culls, the still unresolved issues regarding safety and the significant uncertainty over the numbers of badgers to be killed in 2014, 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.”
The Badger Trust is now calling for Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss to reinstate the IEP if the Government is insistent that a second year of culling should go ahead.
Mr Dyer added: “The Secretary of State is not just moving the goal posts, but has banished the independent referee from the pitch. “Whatever happens during the second year of the culls, in the absence of the IEP, it will be impossible to trust any findings supporting a wider roll out.”
A Defra spokesman said: "We are pleased that the judge has found in our favour.
"We have always been clear that the independent expert panel's role was to oversee the six-week pilots in the first year of the culls only.
"This year we have made changes to monitor effectiveness and humaneness and the culls will be independently audited."
Earlier this week Natural England confirmed that all the criteria had been met to allow the second of four years of badger culling – with an aim to kill 1,091 badgers in the county, 170 more than last year.
Jeanne Berry of Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) said: “We are appalled that despite all the science showing that culling badgers is not a solution to bovine TB in cattle the government is refusing to listen to reason.
“Last years’ cull was seen to be disastrous. It was judged to be inhumane and ineffective by the government’s own independent panel.
“GABS will now mobilise its supporters to get ready to go out, act within the law and look for wounded badgers during the cull.”
Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle said: “It is appalling that these culls are going ahead when they have already been described as an ‘epic failure’ by the chief scientific advisor to Natural England.
“Bovine TB is a serious problem that needs addressing but these culls have been shown to be ineffective, inhumane and they may have made the problem worse.
“Elizabeth Truss missed a clear opportunity when she became Secretary of State to leave prejudice-based policy in the past and place science firmly at the centre of her department’s policy.
“To add insult to injury these culls are proceeding without any independent scientific oversight.
“The Government must explain why it is refusing to work with scientists, wildlife groups and farmers to develop an alternative strategy to get the problem of Bovine TB under control.”