Farmers lose legal bid to stop Derbyshire badger cull

Farmers have failed to overturn the government’s cancellation of a badger cull in Derbyshire in a ruling welcomed by wildlife groups.
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Lawyers for the National Farmers' Union (NFU) argued that the move, announced last September, was ‘irrational’.

However, a High Court judge, who analysed arguments at a hearing on Skype in April, has dismissed the NFU challenge.

Mrs Justice Andrews said it was a ‘difficult’ decision which involved the ‘exercise of complex political and ethical value judgments’.

Farmers wanted to overturn cancellation of the Derbyshire badger cull. Photo: SWNSFarmers wanted to overturn cancellation of the Derbyshire badger cull. Photo: SWNS
Farmers wanted to overturn cancellation of the Derbyshire badger cull. Photo: SWNS

"In short, however compelling the case for permitting the licence to be issued might appear, there were countervailing political considerations which legitimately led the responsible decision-maker to conclude that no licence should be granted in Derbyshire for that year," she said.

The cull was set to go ahead in Derbyshire last winter in a bid to control bovine TB.

But in September the government said it would not grant the county's farmers licenses to do it.

NFU lawyers told Mrs Justice Andrews lobbying by Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer included meeting Prime Minister Johnson's partner, Carrie Symonds, in Downing Street.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said he was ‘delighted’ the prime minister had taken note of the concerns raised in an open letter last year.

“The high court judgment shows he was highly engaged in the decision-making process to withhold a cull licence in Derbyshire and we are pleased to see that the judge accepted his intervention in this case was both legitimate and lawful,” Mr Dyer said.

“In its verdict on the Godfray review, the government has made it clear that it wants to find an exit strategy to badger culling based on badgers and cattle vaccination combined with improved TB testing in cattle and tighter biosecurity and movement controls. The Badger Trust fully supports this change of policy.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs welcomed the ruling.

He said: "The government remains committed to its strategy to combat bovine TB which leads to the slaughter of over 30,000 cattle every year and considerable trauma for farmers."