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Legal Challenges & Badger Vaccination in Wales

Despite years of campaigning, badger culling seems to be an issue that keeps coming back to haunt us. The 10-year government-funded Randomised Badger Culling Trial concluded that “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle tuberculosis control in Britain”. We thought this had finally consigned attempts to placate cattle farmers by exterminating badgers to history. How wrong we were.

Welsh Badgers Saved by Science

In January 2011, the Welsh Assembly announced its intention to start a “limited cull” of badgers in Pembrokeshire. Wales’s Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones claimed the decision was based on “scientific evidence” showing that culling would help reduce cattle TB. When challenged by Care for the Wild with the evidence from the government funded trials and other scientific papers clearly showing that culling isn’t effective, she failed to come up with any scientific justification for her decision. She simply stated in a letter that her intentions “have not changed”.

In response, Care for the Wild, along with our partners in the Save the Badger Alliance, launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the issue. One of our alliance partners, The Badger Trust, launched a legal challenge to the Welsh Assembly’s intentions. After much legal wrangling, the challenge was upheld on appeal, and the impending slaughter of badgers was stopped at the eleventh hour!

After much legal wrangling, the challenge was upheld on appeal, and the impending slaughter of badgers was stopped at the eleventh hour!

Among other things, the judgement recognised that the Welsh Assembly’s intentions did not satisfy the legal requirements of wildlife protection legislation. Most significantly, the Welsh Assembly had failed to demonstrate that the mass slaughter of a protected species would result in a sufficient benefit to farmers and to the taxpayer, in terms of the expected reduction in cattle TB that would result.

In March 2012, John Griffiths, the Welsh Assembly Minister for Environment and Economic Development, released a statement confirming that the Welsh Assembly has dropped plans to slaughter badgers in favour of a five-year Wales badger vaccination scheme.

In a BBC report, Mr Griffiths said: “Provisional figures indicate that since May we have successfully caught and vaccinated over 1,400 badgers in the Intensive Action Area (IAA).

“Our vaccination programme has enabled Wales to take quick and decisive action to develop a degree of immunity to TB within the badger population in the IAA. We believe that this should reduce the risk of TB transmission from badgers to cattle and contribute to the eradication of bovine TB over time.”

The minister has asked Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales Dr Christianne Glossop to consider other areas for vaccination.

He added: “The success of the badger vaccination initiative is dependent on staff being granted access to as much land as possible. I would like to thank farmers and landowners for their ongoing co-operation and encourage other partners and stakeholders to consider how they could work with us to increase the number of badgers we can vaccinate in Wales.”

The IAA covers 288 sqkm (110 sqm) and it is thought to be the first time a project to cage and vaccinate badgers has been carried out on this scale

Fighting in the courts

Astonishingly, at the end of 2011, the Coalition Government announced proposals to undertake badger cull trials in England. Farmers in the two pilot areas were issued with licences for the free shooting of badgers, a method of culling that has never been trialled before.

Care for the Wild believes this is the wrong move because:

  • There are serious welfare concerns associated with free-shooting, many animals will be left may suffer long painful death
  • There are no details as to how the cull will be monitored, as such, whole populations could be eradicated
  • Scientific evidence shows that slaughtering badgers does not effectively eradicate cattle TB
  • The UK’s leading Scientists have written an open letter to the press condoning the cull

More Legal battles:

  • Care for the Wild is working directly as part of Team Badger, which includes The League Against Cruel Sports, the RSPCA, Humane Society International and many more in a joint campaign aimed at stopping the badger cull trials once and for all.
  • Care for the Wild backed the Humane Society International UK’s formal complaint to the Bern Convention against the Government decision to sanction pilot badger culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire. The complaint focused in on three key aspects of the Bern Convention – that it lacks legitimate purpose, poses a significant threat to local badger populations and because alternative strategies for controlling TB in cattle and badgers have not been sufficiently explored. This complaint was thrown out – which we are disappointed at.
  • Care for the Wild was also extremely disappointed to here that the Badger Trust’s Judicial Review and appeal failed in the High Court. We were all hoping that this would put a stop, or at least a delay, to the mass killing about to happen.We still need your support.
  • Visit our Team Badger page here.
  • For more information on legal battles, take a look at the Badger Trust website.