Plans by Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to introduce an English style badger cull in efforts to control bovine TB in cattle, have been thrown out by the High Court in a judgement released on 25th October.
DAERA’s proposals would have allowed as many as 4,000 largely healthy badgers to be shot by farmer-led groups each year. However, in his response to a legal challenge brought by the organisations Wild Justice and the Northern Ireland Badger Group, Mr Justice Scofield found that DAERA had failed to conduct a lawful public consultation. He also found that the Department failed to advise the Minister about animal welfare concerns.
Responding to the news, Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s Head of Policy, said: “We are pleased to see that Northern Ireland’s High Court of Justice has upheld the challenge to DAERA’s proposals to introduce mass badger culling in Northern Ireland. DAERA’s refusal to disclose the full details of its Business Case during its 2021 public consultation on its policy made it impossible for consultees to scrutinise the financial and other arguments it had in mind.”
The judgement will force DAERA to rethink its policy and hold further public consultations on its options for tackling bovine TB.
Dr Jones continued: “The introduction of an England-style badger cull in Northern Ireland, when the latest peer-reviewed science from England clearly demonstrates the failure of this approach to reduce bovine TB in cattle, has no basis in evidence, and would result in the unnecessary and inhumane killing of thousands of perfectly healthy badgers. DAERA should now permanently abandon any such plans and focus instead on the cattle-based measures required to bring bovine TB, which has such devastating impacts for farmers and their cattle, under control.”
Born Free provided a detailed witness statement to the court in support of Wild Justice and the Northern Ireland Badger Group’s challenge, focussing on the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of badger culling in controlling bovine TB in cattle, and on animal welfare concerns.