A High Court battle between the Badger Trust and legal representatives for Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Defra, concluded this afternoon.
(Tweets from court proceedings)
The judicial review at London’s Royal Courts of Justice was strictly designed to look at the legality of the Government’s plans to cull badgers, rather than examine the scientific and animal welfare concerns surrounding this controversial issue.
The two day review, presided over by Mr Justice Ouseley, consisted of in-depth analysis of the several decades worth of animal legislation which led to the Government’s decision to conduct a pilot cull of badgers in west Somerset and west Gloucestershire later this year.
The Badger Trust sought to challenge the decision to cull on three grounds, including the argument that the cull fails to meet the legal requirement to prevent the spread of disease, the flawed cost-impact assessment supporting the decision to allow the free-shooting of badgers and the use of Natural England as the licensing body for the cull. The argument returned on a number of occasions to the point that the decision to cull badgers is likely to cause the problem it is designed to prevent by causing the disease to spread more widely due to the perturbation effect.
David Wolfe QC, representing Badger Trust, described the pilot cull areas as approximately the size of the Isle of Wight and estimated 3,800 badgers could be killed in each of the four years of culling. Presenting the evidence against the cull he argued that the decision to use free shooting as a method was influenced strongly by cost and stressed that once the pilots commence, even if they are failing they must continue for the full four-year duration.
The legal representatives for the Government argued that the industry-led free shooting policy was chosen because it involved the farming community and would create a shared responsibility for tackling the problem.
A decision on whether the pilot culls will go ahead is expected within the next few weeks.
Network for Animals campaigner, Christina Dixon, was at the trial tweeting the proceedings. A selection of the highlights are displayed here. Please follow @Network4Animals for more updates.