Animal rights activists lose battle to ban badger cull

Court rules animals can be killed in Wales in bid to prevent spread of bovine TB

A A A

The culling of badgers to control TB in cattle, one of the British countryside's most divisive issues, can go ahead in Wales, a judge ruled yesterday.

While the idea of killing badgers to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis has been abandoned in England in favour of vaccination, the Welsh Assembly Government's plan to cull the animals was upheld by Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, who rejected a legal challenge brought by animal welfare activists.

His decision was welcomed by Welsh politicians, farmers and vets, but attacked by wildlife campaigners led by the Badger Trust, which said it would consider an appeal.

The issue is hugely controversial, as TB is spreading extensively in cattle in Britain, and there is compelling evidence that badgers constitute a reservoir of the disease and can pass it on to farm livestock. However, a 10-year, £34m study of the problem (which killed 12,000 badgers) concluded in 2008 that culling simply would not work as a method of control. It was argued that not all badgers would be caught in the cull, and that the ones which escaped would wander the countryside spreading the disease even more.

Yet in a remarkable scientific spat, this conclusion was itself challenged by the Government's then Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, who insisted that culling would work and strongly recommended the introduction of a culling programme. In the end, the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn took the decision to abandon culling in England for a programme of TB vaccination – to the anger of the National Farmers' Union.

But agriculture is now a devolved responsibility, and last year the Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, decided to go down the culling route after all. Her decision was subjected to a judicial review last month, brought about by a challenge from the Badger Trust, but yesterday at the Swansea Civil Justice Centre the judge upheld her position, and the cull is likely to go ahead now in pilot areas in Pembrokeshire and other parts of south-west Wales.

Ms Jones had said that bovine TB was "out of control in Wales" and cost taxpayers close to £24m in compensation to farmers in 2009. "We welcome the court's decision," she said yesterday. "Bovine TB is one of the biggest problems facing cattle farmers across Wales, and we have to tackle all sources of the disease. We are dealing with an epidemic that has serious consequences for us all and we must stamp it out. Over the past three years, with advice from experts, we have put in place a comprehensive programme to eradicate TB, and this includes more testing of cattle, identifying and getting rid of the disease in cattle at an earlier stage, and improving on farm practices."

The Badger Trust was "disappointed", said the chairman David Williams. But he added: "Important issues emerged in these proceedings, which ought to give the minister serious cause for thought before proceeding with any cull. We hope that compassion and sense will prevail in light of the latest evidence. Meanwhile, we will carefully consider an appeal."

Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, was among a group of protesters who backed the animal charity's opposition and spoke out against the plan, calling it "a tragic wrong turn".

"This is a disappointment, of course, but not just for thousands of innocent badgers," he said. "The irony is that it is a tragedy for farmers too. The decision to cull cannot lead to any significant long-term gain in the fight against bovine TB, even with the complete extermination of our native badgers."

He added: "I believe all this will be seen in a few years time for what it is ... a tragic wrong turn which did nothing to solve the problem of TB in cattle. For the sake of all involved, we will not be giving up the fight. We are taking advice on appealing at a higher level."

Leading vets, however, supported the decision. "This is a highly emotive issue and we understand that many people will be disappointed, but it is essential that a wide range of measures are employed and we believe that should include a targeted cull of badgers," said Professor Bill Reilly, President of the British Veterinary Association.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Part Time

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency based in Ashford, Ke...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent