Badger cull faces legal challenge


28 February 2012

by Luke Thomas

A legal challenge has been launched in protest of the government’s plan to cull badgers.

The scheme, which was introduced as a means of inhibiting the spread of tuberculosis amidst cattle, has been heavily criticised by groups such as the Badger Trust, who have stated that the strategy proposed is counterproductive, as it may even aid in the widespread distribution of this deadly disease.

This has led the organisation to initiate a judicial review over the decision, in an attempt to stop the pilot schemes which are intended to begin later in the year.

One of the main issues is that the current plan for the pilot involves the concept of “free shooting”, wherein badgers are shot in the wild instead of being captured beforehand. There is evidence that this merely serves to scatter the surviving badgers to distant territory, which could easily lead to TB-infected creatures spreading the disease over a wider area than would have otherwise happened.

However, the more effective method of trapping the badgers beforehand could increase the cost of the scheme tenfold, meaning that the financial reasoning behind the plan could turn out to be on very shaky ground.

The Badger Trust has instead proposed that the government should invest in better regulation on the movement of cattle, which have proven to be a more problematic disease vector than badgers.

However, the government argues that it is a worthwhile scheme given the loss of £100m from TB-infected cattle every year, and that it would ultimately benefit badgers by wiping out the disease in their populations – though vaccination programmes have been posited as an alternative.

Since badgers are protected under law, other groups are planning to bring the Bern Convention to bear, as it is a piece of legislation which is intended to protect wildlife.

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