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Judicial Review

by Mr Justice Cranston

Badger Cull Legal Challenges rulings leave 25,000 more badgers to be killed this Autumn.
The Badger Trust has expressed deep disappointment in Justice Cranston’s High Court Ruling on Wednesday 15th August. This finds that the less regulated ‘supplementary badger culling’ is lawful and can continue to be expanded across England and that Natural England has adequate monitoring systems to detect carnivore disruption in protected ecosystems affected by badger culling.
Despite finding that the government has been in breach of its duties in certain respects with regard to badger culling, Judge Cranston did not believe these infringements were sufficiently serious to cancel licences or to stop the cull.
During the Judicial Review, the High Court heard that in early 2017, Defra Ministers were wrongly told by their officials that a long-term culling approach was ‘necessary’ when the proposed supplementary method was known to be untested and might do more harm than good in the fight against bovine TB. It was then approved by the current Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove in July of 2017.
The Court also heard that the Defra Chief Scientific Advisor Ian Boyd and Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens supported untested approaches that were ‘adaptive’ or ‘learn as we go along’ in order to satisfy industry expectations, despite warnings that any value of supplementary culling could not be measured in the cull areas.
Responding to the High Court judgement the CEO of the Badger Trust said: “This judgement pushes aside serious concerns about failures in the Defra consultation process for supplementary culling and for measuring the ecological impact of badger removal on other species and ecosystems. It also accepts that Defra has now largely discarded all of the scientific findings from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which cost over £50 million of public money.
By ruling that supplementary cull licences are lawful, Justice Cranston is allowing farmers and landowners across England to kill badgers on an open ended basis with little training or effective independent scrutiny and without knowing whether or not there is any benefit.
His ruling could now result in the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory, with a further 25,000 badgers being killed in 2018 and over 100,000 killed by 2020. This is despite the fact that government has provided no reliable evidence to prove that badger culling is having any significant impact on lowering bovine TB in cattle in or around the cull zones.”
Responding to the ruling, ecologist Tom Langton who was the claimant in the case, said: “Aspects of the rulings seem unclear and our lawyers are looking closely at grounds for an Appeal. The government appears to be able to develop policy in private with selected industry stakeholders. It is apparently entitled to choose science or lack of it to fit the policy of the moment. Key warnings by leading experts have been sidestepped and approaches seem to match the aims of economic expedience rather than any real attempt to halt the spread of bovine TB in cattle.
As a result of the Judicial Review, Natural England will now have to disclose details of their monitoring system for the various nature reserves in and around the cull areas in England. Details of the recently announced specially planned bird monitoring programmes now underway for all badger cull areas containing protected sites, will be of very wide public interest.
We still have under consideration our challenge of the 2017 badger culling licences relating to Sites of Specific Scientific Interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. We have also initiated a challenge against the May 2018 policy plans for a new kind of approach based on reactive badger culling in the TB Low Risk Area of Eastern England that in the past has been shown to make bovine TB worse. This is another disaster in the making.
I would like to thank the Badger Trust, Born Free, Badger Groups and individuals across the country who have donated so generously to get to this stage and to reassure them that we will continue to fight in the courts and use all lawful means to bring badger culling to an end in England”
The judgement this week found that the flaws in the consultation period for supplementary culling in December 2016/ January 2017 were not so great as to break the law.
The cases were brought by Ecologist and Badger Trust member Tom Langton who has led challenges with support from ‘The Badger Crowd’, a fundraising coalition including Badger Groups and Trusts around the UK, the wildlife charity Born Free and hundreds of individuals via crowd funding appeals. Many generous private donations have been made and particular thanks are due to Badger Trust Sussex and The Badger Trust.
The legal team are currently reviewing the potential for Appeal of the High Court judgement and information on this will be provided over the next few weeks.
Badger Trust is considering moves to challenge the recently announced government plans to carry out reactive badger culling in the Low Risk area of England authorised by Michael Gove in May 2018.
The Sir Charles Godfray review of bovine TB control is due to report next month and will have considered the changing approach to badger culling over the last five years.
Judge Sir Ross Cranston is a retired judge and a banking lawyer, was previously a Member of Parliament for Labour in Dudley North from 1997. He is a member of the London Wildlife Trust.

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