The social structure of badger families is perturbed by the loss of a single member, and this can cause the spread of any TB they may be harbouring. Photo: Tim Brookes via Flickr.
Badger Trust's High Court cull challenge
21st July 2014
The Badger Trust will challenge the trial badger culls in the High Court next month, claiming that Environment Secretary Liz Truss and Natural England are acting unlawfully in failing to appoint an expert panel to oversee the experiment.
The failure of DEFRA to continue independent oversight of data collection and analysis of the ongoing badger cull enormously compromises their ability to assess whether it achieves its critical aims.
The Badger Trust is seeking an urgent meeting with the new Environment Secretary ahead of its Judicial Review of the badger cull, which will take place in the High Court on Thursday 21 August.
The Badger Trust is challenging the new DEFRA Secretary of State and Natural England over their failure to put in place an Independent Expert Panel for the planned culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2014.
"I congratulate Liz Truss on her appointment but call on her not to make the mistakes of her predecessor by attempting to push ahead with further badger culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset this summer, without any independent assessment of safety, effectiveness and humaneness", said Badger Trust CEO Dominic Dyer.
"Rather than shut the door on any discussion of this issue ahead of the Judicial Review, we would like to arrange for key representatives of the Badger Trust to meet with the new DEFRA Secretary of State as soon as possible.
How else are we to know if it's safe, effective, humane?
The Trust contends an expert panel is needed to oversee the design of data collection, its analysis and interpretation. Without this, there can be no proper assessment of the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the culling operation, something that would be needed before any lawful decision to continue with further culls around the country.
But speaking in Parliament last week, Liz Truss appeared to rule out appointing an expert panel, saying Natural England, the official wildlife agency, would do the job.
Maria Eagle MP asked her: "Will she now give an undertaking to ask the IEP to report on year 2 of the culls, as it did on year 1 - yes or no?"
To which Truss replied: "Let us be absolutely clear: we are asking Natural England, which is a proper expert body, to assess how the culls are going and look at what we can do in future."
However her answer does not absolutely rule out the possibility that, if Natural England were to advise using the IEP, it might not be reconvened to oversee the trial culls.
Co-operate and we may drop the challenge
And Dominic Dyer indicated that the Badger Trust would consider dropping its proceedings if Truss saw sense:
"We would like to use this meeting to look at the key findings of the 2013 IEP report and how its recommendations will be implemented and to reach an agreement on a new independent monitoring panel for any culling operation in 2014, which could avoid the need for the High Court challenge."
"I hope that Elizabeth Truss will accept our meeting request and show the public that she is taking a very different approach from Owen Paterson on this highly controversial issue, by entering into dialogue with the Badger Trust, as well as the National Farmers' Union, on bovine TB control and the badger cull policy, within weeks of taking up her new Cabinet post."
But he added that even if the IEP were re-appointed, the Trust would continue to oppose the cull itself: "Our position remains that the culling of badgers will not have a significant impact on the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. This is a completely separate discussion."
Paterson never even met the IEP
MPs were recently informed by Professor Tim Coulson a member of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), that the former DEFRA Secretary of State Owen Paterson was very unhappy with the IEP report into the 2013 culls which was highly critical of their failure to meet reasonable standards of humaneness and effectiveness. Mr Paterson did not meet the panel to discuss their findings.
Professor Tim Coulson said: "I think it was a major mistake by Owen Paterson not to meet with the IEP following the publication of our report into the 2013 pilot culls. The failure of DEFRA to continue independent oversight of data collection and analysis of the ongoing badger cull enormously compromises their ability to assess whether it achieves its critical aims."
"I fully support the Badger Trust's call for an urgent meeting with the new DEFRA Secretary of State on this key issue ahead of the Judicial Review challenge on 21 August."
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