The controversial badger cull extension presently under way in the South West of England faces a new legal challenge with a High Court action filed today by Brian May’s Save Me organisation.
Save Me was set up in April 2010 as a voice against persecution and cruelty of UK countryside wildlife, and has become a leading voice in the campaign to oppose the cull.
Represented by leading Human Rights QC, John Cooper, and Solicitor David Wells of Wells Burcombe Solicitors, Save Me has filed an ‘exceptionally urgent’ High Court Judicial Review Claim calling for an immediate halt to the culling presently operating under extended licence in Gloucestershire.
An eight week extension to the Gloucestershire pilot cull was granted by Natural England after the initial trial period failed to reach its 70% target, and began on 23 October.
The Save Me claim names Secretary of State For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, and Natural England as defendants.
Other Interested Parties are named as the National Farmers Union and the Badger Trust.
The call for an urgent review is based on the reasoning that with the Gloucestershire extension already operative, unless this is urgently addressed the period of the extension might elapse before a formal review can be applied.
The action will challenge the granting of the approval by Natural England against the recommendation of its own Scientific Advisor, Professor David Macdonald, Head of Natural England Scientific Committee. He stated according to Minutes that the view that killing more badgers would lead to better disease control was “not easily reconciled with the evidence”.
Furthermore, that despite DEFRA’s Chief Scientific Officer declining to comment on any proposed extension before he had seen the Independent Experts Report, the decision by Natural England was made without taking reference to the Independent Experts Assessment, therefore that the decision making process which resulted in the culling period extension failed to apply the scrutiny and duty to consult that was demanded of it adding to the unreasonable nature of its decision.
Says John Cooper QC, “From the material I have seen already, it is clear that appropriate procedures have not been taken in relation to this action, which will inevitably lead to the destruction of more wildlife if the Government remains unchallenged. “In all the circumstances and for the grounds we have set out, we assert that the decisions made by DEFRA, the Secretary of State and Natural England, separately and or cumulatively were unreasonable and should be immediately revoked.”
Anne Brummer, CEO of Save Me, said “It is outrageous that the Government are ploughing ahead with an extension before the effects of the pilot culls had been assessed. The Government is riding roughshod over procedure with no regard for the consequences to wildlife or to farmers, who have now been placed at increased risk. The policy is bound to fail – it is dividing communities, racking up ludicrous costs and spreading TB – based on all the previous science we have. When will the Government make the right decision and scrap the slaughters of mainly healthy badgers and understand the true value and role of wildlife in our ecosystem?”