The High Court held a judicial review of the assembly government’s plan. Last month, Justice Lloyd Jones heard two days of submissions during a hearing, and today, he ruled that the plan was not formed unlawfully, as the charity had claimed.
The proposed cull will take place over the next few months and will cover north Pembrokeshire and parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, areas which the assembly government claim have ‘endemic’ bovine TB infections.
Elin Jones, the rural affairs minister, said: ‘Bovine TB is out of control and unsustainable, and, last year, cost the taxpayer nearly £24 million in compensating farmers.
‘This is a dramatic rise since 2000, when the compensation bill was just over £1 million. In 1997, about 700 cattle were culled because of bovine TB. This increased to 12,000 by 2008.
‘We know that cattle and badgers are the main sources of the disease and that, if we want to achieve our aim of eradicating bovine TB, we have to tackle the disease in both species.’
However, Jack Reedy, director of the Badger Trust, said that the cull was ‘not legal’, and added: ‘There is no justification for it, because it would not be effective.
‘The Bern Convention requires that [culling can take place only] to eradicate diseases. All the scientific evidence demonstrates that culling does not eradicate disease. The cull is not supported by the science.’
‘The decision to cull cannot lead to any significant long-term gain in the fight against bovine TB, even with the complete extermination of our native badgers. All this will be seen in a few years time for what it is—a tragic wrong turn that did nothing to solve the problem.’
Other animal-welfare groups have expressed their concerns at the proposed cull. RSPCA senior wildlife scientist Colin Booty commented: ‘This decision to eliminate badgers from a large area of the Welsh countryside is wrong.’
Mr Booty noted that a 10-year study by the Independent Scientific Group on TB in cattle, which cost £50 million and killed 11,000 badgers, showed that culling carried the risk of actually spreading the disease further.
He added that most badgers aren’t even infected with TB: ‘A study of dead badgers by the assembly government published in January 2007 found that seven out of eight badgers tested negative for the disease.’
During the hearing, the Badger Trust’s barrister, David Wolfe, said that there was a discrepancy in approach between having a cull in Pembrokeshire but possibly vaccinating in other parts of Wales at a later date.
The assembly government’s barrister, Timothy Corner QC, argued that vaccination has not been qualified scientifically.
Mr May said that he will not be giving up the fight: ‘We are taking advice on appealing at a higher level.’
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