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THE TORY badger cull is unlawful and counterproductive, the High Court heard today.
More than 30,000 badgers have been killed since 2013 at an estimated cost of more than £50 million as part of a misguided bid by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to eradicate bovine tuberculosis.
Ecologist Tom Langton is challenging the legality of Defra’s guidance to Natural England (NE) on issuing supplementary badger cull licences and NE’s decisions to grant certain licences.
He has accused the government of moving from “attempting a precision badger removal policy to an open-ended badger eradication approach that has no scientific validity.”
Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer said Environment Secretary Michael Gove and predecessor Andrea Leadsom “overstepped their positions of power and influence in Defra to push forward a major expansion of the badger cull policy to appease the farming and shooting lobby.”
Richard Turney, for Mr Langton, told the High Court that supplementary culling is “a novel form of badger culling,” representing a “marked change” from Mr Gove’s policy and a “departure from the established evidence in respect of badger control and bovine TB.”
He said bovine TB “requires infected animals to be destroyed, therefore it has a significant economic impact on dairy and beef farming,” and accepted that “badgers can act as a reservoir of the disease.”
But he said badger culling is a “scientifically, politically and morally controversial means of preventing the spread of bovine TB,” adding: “Even the destruction of the entire badger population would not eradicate bovine TB.”
Mr Turney pointed to a June 2007 report considering randomised badger culling trials between 1998 and 2005, which concluded that “badger culling is unlikely to contribute positively, or cost effectively, to the control of cattle TB in Britain.”
That report, he said, found that reactive culling, in response to a bovine TB outbreak, actually “worsened the spread” of the disease because badgers moved beyond cull areas and came into contact with other animals “more frequently.”
Then environment secretary Owen Paterson infamously remarked in 2013 that “badgers [had] moved the goalposts” by fleeing the cull.
Defra argues that its consultation process was lawful, and that its policy is not in conflict with the Protection of Badgers Act. NE argues that it carried out an appropriate assessment before granting licences.
The hearing continues.
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