The fate of thousands of badgers facing slaughter hangs on an appeal against a High Court ruling which upheld Government proposals for two pilot badger culls, including one in West Somerset. The Government says that culling will help combat cattle tuberculosis, which costs the UK more than £100 million per year.
In July, Mr Justice Ouseley upheld proposals for the two pilot culls. The controversial scheme could eventually lead to culling in up to 10 areas per year. The decision was a blow for the Badger Trust which said England now faces the prospect of 40,000 badgers being "pointlessly killed" over the next four years.
The Court of Appeal is now to hear its challenge to the judge's dismissal of a claim that Caroline Spelman, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was misusing her statutory powers by allowing landowners and farmers to carry out the cull.
The High Court ruling was welcomed by the the National Farmers Union, the British Veterinary Association and British Cattle Veterinary Association.
– Defra spokesman
No one wants to cull badgers, but last year bovine TB led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle, and to help eradicate the disease it needs to be tackled in badgers.
Cost of the cattle losses was estimated at £91 million. But Badger Trust chairman David Williams said killing badgers makes no meaningful contribution to tackling the disease.
– DAVID BOWLES, RSPCA
We believe culling is not a long-term, sustainable solution and will be of little help in reducing the disease, perhaps even making things worse in some areas
Queen guitarist Brian May is leading a public rally in Bristol this evening against Government plans to reduce badger numbers. Campaigners will wear badger costumes.