‘Badger cull under threat from last-minute legal challenge’

Posted on October 21, 2012

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Today (21st October), an item was posted on guardian.co.uk titled ‘Badger cull under threat from last-minute legal challenge’.

‘… Badger Trust lawyers challenge the legality of licences on cost and public safety grounds, in latest blow to the cull –

A last-minute legal challenge has dealt a fresh blow to the government’s increasingly troubled cull of badgers in England, the Observer has learned.

The Badger Trust’s lawyers have served a 16-page legal letter on Natural England, the government agency licensing the culling, which could halt the cull. “The costs of the cull are soaring out of control, with little benefit in sight for farmers and major risks posed for members of the public in the cull areas,” said Gwendolen Morgan, the trust’s solicitor at Bindmans LLP. “It is time for the government to reconsider.”

The delayed cull now appears at serious risk of being abandoned, for this year at least. On Thursday it was revealed that the number of badgers in the cull areas was up to twice initial estimates [http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/18/cost-badger-cull-u-turn], presenting a much greater challenge to farmers already said to be deeply concerned by rising costs and complications.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson and farming minister David Heath added to the confusion by cancelling a series of media interviews. Whitehall sources compared the chaotic situation to The Thick of It. One said: “Paterson and No 10 have had to persuade the National Farmers’ Union to continue with the cull to avoid another U-turn.” …

The new legal letter is an “urgent pre-action protocol letter”, which gives NE a final chance to address the trust’s concerns before the latter seeks a judicial review – and an injunction, if needed — to halt the cull. The letter has effectively put a temporary stop on the cull.

“We have now had information which reveals a number of serious flaws in the licensing process,” writes Morgan. “We have advised our clients that the licences granted are unlawful.”

The Trust argues that the public’s legal right to safety is put at risk by the fact that no barriers or warnings will be posted around the cull areas, meaning people using publicly accessible land could walk into the shooting area.

A Natural England spokesman for said: “We are considering the letter and will respond in due course.” …

Previous legal action by the Badger Trust halted a planned cull in Wales.

The Trust also argues that the spiralling costs of the cull mean NE has a duty to carry out a new cost impact assessment …’

Read the item in full and add your comment online at www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/21/badgers-bovine-tuberculosis?newsfeed=true

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