Plans to cull thousands of badgers across the UK look set to go ahead after a legal battle seeking to prevent the move failed in the High Court.
The plans will involve the shooting of some 40,000 badgers across the UK. Farmers and land owners will be able to apply for licences to cull the animals, but to do so must have at acess to at least 70%
of the land in a cull area.
The proposed slaughter of the much loved, but often maligned woodland creature is sanctioned by DEFRA because of the impact which badgers have on cattle.
Official figures demonstrate that 26,000 cows are slaughtered each year after contracting bovine TB. Badgers carry bovine TB and can pass the infection from herd to herd.
The Badger Trust was challenging the cull on several grounds. Most notably that scientific evidence had previously shown that the majority of slaughtered cattle with bovine TB caught the disease from other cows, not from badgers.
Badgers are protected under UK law but this protection can be waived to prevent the spread of disease. The Badger Trust was able to show that the cull will only have a minimal impact on the spread of TB, with generous estimates predicting that a decade after the slaughter of 40,000 badgers, the impact on bovine TB could be as little as 9%.
The move was also challenged on cost grounds. The taxpayer will foot the bill for the cull, which will be done by free-shooting. Previous trials of the cull used a trap-and-shoot technique which is more efficient and the Badger Trust argues that using a different, untried method could lead to spiralling costs.
The Welsh Assembly recently vetoed plans to be involved in the scheme, opting instead to vaccinate cattle against the disease.
Despite compelling argument, Mr Justice Ouseley ruled against the Badger Trust. David Williams is their chairman.
"Although the Secretary of State has tried to interpret the science to her advantage, nothing has altered the basic finding that while badgers are implicated, killing them can make no meaningful contribution to tackling the disease, and cattle measures in themselves are sufficient if properly applied," he told the BBC after the decision.
Badger culling legal challenge fails (BBC News)