Victory for badgers

A few weeks ago I asked: What did 11,000 badgers die for? The 11,000 badgers in question were killed as part of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial or ‘Krebs Experiment,’ the results of which showed quite clearly that a badger cull could make no meaningful contribution to the eradication of cattle TB.

At the time, with a badger cull about to start in Wales, and Defra’s new Ministerial team keen to get on with a similarly senseless slaughter in England, it seemed that thousands of badgers had died for nothing. But with the indomitable spirit so often displayed by the badgers themselves, the Badger Trust pursued the case against culling through the courts. Today, the Trust’s determination paid off. Three law lords handed down a judgement which has effectively killed the cull in Wales, setting a legal precedent which should derail Defra’s plans to wipe out thousands more badgers in England.

Section 21 of the Animal Health Act 1981 is one of the key pieces of legislation at issue in this case (and would be so if an English cull were to be sanctioned). The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) believed that it gave them the power to cull badgers even though the benefits, in terms of reduced TB outbreaks in cattle, were modest. However Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, commenting on the Order made by WAG to authorise its cull, stated:  “If this order is valid, it would follow that, in the absence of devolution, the Act could be used, in effect, to disapply the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 throughout England and Wales, by means of a single statutory instrument [such as the TB Eradication (Wales) Order 2009, which is secondary legislation]. If the cull authorised by such an order were effective, the badger, an indigenous species, would be eradicated and become extinct in this country. I doubt that this is what Parliament envisaged or authorised when enacting section 21.”

This is a fantastic achievement, but it has come at a cost. Badger Trust Chairman Dave Williams said today: “We have invested our money – our groups’ and supporters’ subscriptions and donations – to support our conviction that the law had to be tested and that the science was right. Although a protective order saved £10,000 the total bill will be well into six figures. That’s a huge sum for us but it has paid off handsomely, thanks in no small measure to our legal team.” He  added: “We are delighted with this outcome. We are grateful to all the badger groups and supporters whose donations and encouragement made this crucial legal action possible.  Of all the wildlife organisations the Badger Trust exists to secure the welfare of our native protected species, the badger, and we will continue to do so through lawful means. We are pleased to see that the protection offered by wildlife law cannot be vitiated by political smoke and mirrors and that the court saw the issues so clearly.”

While the Welsh Assembly Government was planning to spend huge sums of public money in order to kill badgers, the Badger Trust has spent a considerable amount in a bid to save them. And while the spirits of the Badger Trust staff, Trustees and supporters (myself included) will today be high, the Trust’s coffers will most likely be rather low. If you can, please help to remedy that situation by joining or making a donation to the Badger Trust.

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