Continuing to challenge the irrational badger cull

On Thursday 21st August another chapter of the infamous badger cull saga in England began to unfold.

I, and many others, went to the streets to witness it first-hand.

With the resumption of the pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset around the corner, a fresh legal challenge against them was heard in the Royal Court of Justice, beginning what could become a critical milestone in the long and arduous anti-badger cull journey.

The Badger Trust, like IFAW a part of Team Badger, went to the High Court in London to challenge DEFRA’s Secretary of State Liz Truss and Natural England in a Judicial Review of the Government’s highly controversial badger cull policy. There have been other legal challenges before, but this time the main argument focused on the Independent Expert Panel (IEP).

In 2013 the two pilot culls began, and the result was scrutinised by the Government’s appointed IEP, which concluded that the pilots were inhumane and ineffective.

We all thought that this would be the end of it, and that DEFRA would stop the cull and go for vaccination, as the Welsh Government wisely did. But the then Secretary of State Owen Paterson, consistent in his contempt for independent scientific advice, decided to continue with the pilots, although he also postponed the roll-out to other areas after some “adjustments” to the procedures.

However, the most outrageous aspect of this was that he decided to get rid of the IEP, so this time nobody independent will be scrutinising the pilots, or checking that the so call “adjustments” are made and work properly.

Liz Truss, the current Secretary of State, seemed perfectly fine with this, so now she needs to face to Court to answer to the allegations that she unlawfully failed to put in place any Independent Expert Panel for the pilots.

Professor Tim Coulson, a member of the IEP who has confirmed his support for the challenge, said:

“The Independent Expert Panel’s report states clearly the rationale for ensuring that independent monitoring and the use of the statistically robust sample sizes and analytical methods, as used in the 2013 culls, are followed in further culling exercises. 

If this scientific advice is ignored then the data collected during the proposed 2014 culls will be insufficiently reliable for assessment of humaneness and effectiveness.

This means that farmers, veterinarians and scientists intimately involved in controlling bovine TB will be denied the information necessary to allow them to assess whether the IEP’s recommended changes to the culling process have corrected the failings identified by the pilot culls.”

 

It may take days for the judges to give a verdict, but it did not take much for people of all walks of life to take to the streets to express their support to the challenge, and their rejection of the cull.

A colourful demonstration, coordinated by Care for the Wild and the Badger Trust, gathered outside the Court for its first hearing of the case, and I joined them representing IFAW. Watch the video below:

 

It was nice to see again many of the badger protectors I have been encountering along this campaign, and also to see many passers-by applauding the demo and showing support.

We will need to wait and see the result of the trial, but what we already know is that the strength of the opposition to the cull has not diminished a bit, and most people continue challenging the irrational cull with rationality and common sense.

If we do not give up, one of these days the badgers in England may be protected again.

Let’s hope that this trial is the beginning of the end.

--JC

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