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Badger law: Badger Trust launches fresh legal challenge

The Badger Trust, a leading group which aims to protect the popular but threatened woodland mammal has revealed that it is planning a fresh legal challenge to government proposals for a mass cull of the animals in England.

The Government announced plans to conduct the cull back in December last year. The aim is to pilot a cull in various areas of the country, with the aim of reducing tuberculosis in cattle.

Now the Badger Trust has announced that they will challenge the government decision for a cull with a judicial review. They argue that far from stopping the spread of TB into the cattle population, such a move may actually help to spread it.

The Badger Trust are not alone in wanting the challenge the government's plans, as other support groups have indicated that they may launch other legal challenges using the Bern Convention. The Convention affords protection to European Wildlife.

The current government plans are likely to operate with farmers and cattle owners paying private contractors to shoot badgers in a number of parts of England. The first two pilots, in Gloucestershire and west Somerset are scheduled to take place later this year.

Gwendolen Morgan works for Bindmans, the legal firm which is representing the Badger Trust.

"We have identified some serious flaws in the way by which Caroline Spelman reached her decision to cull badgers," she said.

"Given that the proposals come at an enormous cost to farmers, and threaten to prompt rather than prevent the spread of disease, we hope that this ill-conceived decision will be struck down by the court," she added.

The law which permits the culling of badgers is included in the ironically named Protection of Badgers Act 1992. The Act permits a culling of badgers in order to "prevent the spread of disease". The Badger Trust argues that slowing the rate of the spread of TB does not qualify as prevention under the terms of the Act.

The Trust will also argue that the method of killing the badgers will spread TB as the licences will be for "free shooting". Previous trials have worked on a capture and kill basis. It is thought that the free-shooting provision will drive badgers to roam further, spreading TB to more farms.

The cost of the cull is estimated to be around £7m, although this could rise by as much as ten times if the cull is unsuccessful and requires additional measures to be taken. It is thought, however, that TB in cattle is costing the UK taxpayer up to £100m every year. In 2010 some 25,000 cattle were slaughtered due to TB.

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