It's provoked a storm of controversy and today government plans to allow badgers to be culled in two test areas to try to stop the spread of tuberculosis are being challenged in the High Court. The Badger Trust, which is bringing the case, wants the court to rule on the legality of the DEFRA move claiming its decision making process was flawed and could even help to spread the disease.
– Gwendolen Morgan, lawyer for the Badger Trust
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 the disease. We hope that the decision to cull will be struck down by the court.
An area in Gloucestershire around Tewkesbury and the Forest of Dean and part of West Somerset around Taunton have been selected to trial the cull. But when the government announced it was going ahead, it knew the decision was controversial.
– Caroline Spelman, Environment Secretary
There is great strength of feeling on this issue and no-one wants to see badgers culled. But no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has successfully controlled the disease in cattle without tackling its presence in wildlife as well.
The two pilots which are scheduled to start in the autumn will last six weeks under what DEFRA says will be "strict licensing conditions". In the South West over a quarter of cattle farms were infected with TB during 2010 and many farmers have long blamed badgers for spreading the disease. The high court hearing is scheduled to last 2 days with a decision expected some weeks later.