Badger cull to halt rise of TB in cattle 'will in fact spread the disease'

 

A A A

Caroline Spelman’s proposed badger cull to halt the rise of TB in cattle will in fact spread the disease, campaigners will tell the High Court tomorrow.

The Badger Trust charity is seeking judicial review of the decision last year by the Environment Secretary to allow a cull to go ahead, after nearly 15 years of argument about the links between the animals and bovine TB.

Opponents of the plan argue that it will not only mean widespread cruelty – badgers are difficult to shoot cleanly, especially at night –  but it will be ineffective, because scientists discovered during a seven-year-long culling trial, which ended in 2007, that killing badgers on a large scale can actually make the incidence of TB infection worse.

This is because survivors of a disturbed, partly-culled group of badgers tend to wander about the countryside, spreading TB as they go, in a phenomenon known as ‘perturbation’.

The perturbation argument will be at the heart of the challenge to the decision, being put before Mr Justice Ouseley at the High Court in London this morning by Mr David Wolfe, QC, on behalf of the Badger Trust (formerly the National Federation of Badger Groups).

Mr Wolfe will argue that the culls proposed will not meet the strict legal test of “preventing the spread of disease” in the areas being licensed, as Defra's own evidence for the hearing confirms that the proposed cull would in fact cause the spread of disease in and around the cull zones.

Defra argues that the effects of perturbation eventually die away, and after some years a reduction in the incidence of the disease of between 12 and 16 per cent is made possible.

But the Trust and Mr Wolfe are seeking to show that Mrs Spelman’s decision is legally flawed on two more grounds: firstly, that the cost estimates of the cull for farmers may be very much an under-estimate, and secondly, that the Environment Secretary was wrong in law to give to the job of licensing the shooting to the Government’s wildlife watchdog, Natural England.

The hearing is expected to last for two days, with a judgement expected in several weeks.

David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said at the weekend: “We see it as our duty to use all legal means of persuasion and scientific argument to overturn this decision, which risks making a bad situation even worse.”

The Trust’s solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan of Bindmans, said: “The Badger Trust has not embarked on this litigation lightly. However, against Defra’s ‘flat earth’ approach to the evidence and determination to pursue an unlawful and costly culling spree, they have been left with no option.

Mrs Spelman’s decision, which reversed the policy of the previous Labour Government, delighted farmers and vets, but dismayed animal welfare campaigners, environmentalists and also some senior scientists.

A trial of the cull is due to take place this autumn in two of the worst affected areas, Gloucestershire and Somerset, and if it is successful it will be rolled out widely in 2013. Farmers will bear the cost themselves, and will form syndicates to hire trained marksmen to shoot badgers as they emerge from their setts in the evening. Thousands of the animals could eventually be killed.

It is widely accepted that badgers form a reservoir for the disease and do pass it on to cattle herds, and Mrs Spelman’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) holds that the situation is so serious that culling is now essential. 

Compensation for cattle put down because of TB infection – at present, 25,000 are being slaughtered annually – has already cost the taxpayer £500m and the Government estimates the cost will rise to £1bn over the next decade unless “further action” is taken.

 “Defra’s culling plans are bad for farmers, bad for cattle, and bad for badgers. The plans cost millions, and threaten to prompt rather than prevent the spread of disease. We hope that the decision to cull will be struck down by the court.”

Today’s case is not the only legal challenge to the cull which the Government faces. The Bern Convention – the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats – is considering at its Strasbourg headquarters a complaint lodged in January by the UK branch of the Humane Society International, which believes that the cull plan is a breach of the Government’s obligations under the convention.

In March this year, the Welsh government announced it had abandoned the idea of a badger cull of its own, in favour of a badger vaccination programme instead.

Defra has rejected a vaccination-only policy as it believes it would be too slow, with the animals having to be caught and then injected.

An easily-distributable oral vaccine is thought to be several years away at least.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little