Badger Persecution & Cull
Court of Appeal confirm new hearing regarding the ecological impacts of badger culling (NERC Act 2006). Judicial Review Case: CO/2062/2020
The Badger Crowd is pleased to confirm that an Application to the Court of Appeal has been successful, reopening the judgements in the High Court of Mr Justice Griffiths in 2021. The appeal has taken a very long time to come through and we now hope the case will be heard before any new licences are issued by Defra and Natural England, and used in 2022.
Justice Griffiths in his ‘to everything there is a season’ ruling (1) had intimated that there was no need for the Minister to take steps to have regard for biodiversity protection for NERC Act listed priority species and habitats in England.
The case relates to Minister George Eustice and Defra publishing a “Next Steps” policy in March 2020, prolonging the slaughter of tens of thousands of mostly healthy badgers each year in existing and new places with, according to current peer-reviewed science, no recordable benefit (2).
Defra claimed that it had decided not to protect NERC Act protected biodiversity interest from potential culling side-effects when culling began in 2013, and again in 2020, despite the 2018 Godfray review (3) flagging-up continuing professional concerns about impacts and the need for research to enable management of the risk, as determined by government funded pilot studies.
Oystercatcher; now you see them, now you don’t ?
One of a number of medium sized waders (such as redshank, snipe and lapwing) at risk from changing predator patterns, but only afforded protective consideration by conditions on culling licences, when nesting on protected sites.
Removal of badgers from the countryside is known to bring about a range of changes to natural communities but the extent of these is unclear and determined only by careful monitoring.
However, when identifying risks of such change, research undertaken over 10 years ago was limited to just a few species and habitats.
Previous cases in 2017 and 2018 showed that Natural England were in breach of their duty in not properly considering the same kind of impacts to SSSI’s, leading to criticisms of government by the High Court and radical changes to Natural England’s operations. Impacts expert Dominic Woodfield from Bioscan continues to provide specialist advice on the case.
The current case challenges the continuing and long-term neglect of potential impacts on a wide range of potentially impacted habitats and species. The case also highlights Natural England’s pitiful contribution to the monitoring of nature, the unacceptably poor condition of many nature reserves and protected areas in England, and to the biodiversity depleted countryside in general.
This case will also resonate in Northern Ireland where the government department’s (DAERA) proposals to carry out ‘preliminary ecological assessment’ to form a baseline to monitor badger culling that it wants to undertake, has been widely derided and possibly now withdrawn.
It is unclear how ecological impacts will be considered in NI and the case in England will certainly inform that consideration and potentially a legal challenge by the Northern Ireland Badger Group (4).
Details of the timing of the Court of Appeal hearing are currently undecided, but as last year’s case was expedited in front of the issue of badger culling licences, this is likely to happen again this in 2022. So far, this case has been generously funded by the Badger Crowd network of Badger Groups, notably Badger Trust Sussex,
(2) Langton TES, Jones MW, McGill I. Analysis of the impact of badger culling on bovine tuberculosis in cattle in the high-risk area of England, 2009–
2020. Vet Rec. 2022;e1384. https://doi.org/10.1002/vetr.1384
(4) Northern Ireland Badger Group challenge, with others: http://www.badgersni.org.uk/pressrelease.html
Badger digging has been practised in this country since the Middle Ages and sadly, today there are still people who indulge in this cruel “sport”. It involves men who send dogs into a sett to locate and corner the badger.
Using radio equipment to locate their dogs, the men dig into the sett and drag the terrified animal out, normally to a cruel death.
Today there is another human threat to the badger population, from road traffic. There are increasing numbers of badgers being killed on our roads as the number of cars increases.
Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 it is an offence to kill, injure or take a badger, to dig for a badger, or to attempt any of these actions. Interfering with a badger sett (for example by damaging a sett or causing a dog to enter a sett) is also illegal under the Act. It is also an offence to possess a dead badger which has been acquired illegally or to try to sell or keep a live badger.
A fine of up to £5000 and/or six months imprisonment can be imposed for each separate offence committed against each animal. The courts can also confiscate any dogs and equipment used in offences against badgers and disqualify the offender from owning a dog.