A six week cull started on Monday 8th September in Somerset and Gloucestershire, despite the concerns regarding the efficacy and humaneness of the culling strategy from scientists, animal welfare and wildlife protection groups, and the Government’s own Independent Expert Panel.
The IEP had found that the first year of the pilot culls failed (by a significant margin) to achieve appropriate standards of both effectiveness in controlling bovine TB, and humaneness. Badgers are a protected species.
The minimum numbers of badgers to be “removed” – as the Natural England web site euphemistically calls the killings* – this year is 615 in Gloucestershire and 316 in Somerset. Natural England says that these targets are based on estimates of the badger population in 2013 and estimates of badger activity on the ground this year.
On 21st August a legal challenge by the Badger Trust had been heard in the High Court. The Badger Trust had called for a Judicial Review on the grounds that DEFRA and Natural England had failed to put in place an Independent Expert Panel for the 2014 cull programme. The Trust contended that there was a “legitimate expectation” that an IEP should be in place to oversee data collection, analysis, and interpretation, without which no informed legal decision could be made regarding future culls. The bid was rejected, with Mr Justice Kenneth Parker ruling there were “no plausible grounds” to support the legitimate expectation claim.
However, on 10th September the Trust won the right to appeal against this decision, when Lord Justice Maurice Kay found that the trust had some arguable points and an appeal would have a chance of success. The hearing will not be scheduled before the end of the six week culling period and so will not save any badgers this year, although the decision will have implications for future policy making.
In the meantime there are nightly badger patrols in Somerset and Gloucestershire, to disrupt shooting activity and to assist wounded badgers.
Badger image from Wikimedia commons.