New legal challenge against badger culling

Last Updated on 7 March 2021 by Badger

As many will know, Wild Justice has done exceptionally well getting the Crowdfunding it required probably because of the high profiles of those involved and also the recent successes they have had on other challenges.  Wild Justice has since closed its fundraiser.

However, Tom Langton and Badgercrowd are crowdfunding to try to help badgers and promote effective approaches to bovine TB control.

You can help support the cause at

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/help-stop-defra-plans-to-extend-badger-culling/

If you prefer to donate by cheque or bank transfer, you can contact Tom on 01986 784596 or Pat Hayden on 01342 870320 and they will advise you of the arrangements.  Or if you prefer, you can e-mail Tom at TL@langtonuk.co.uk or Pat at pat@teamopoly.com.

Tom’s blog is shown below in date order.

Click the links below to jump to the update you want.

New legal challenge against badger culling
Badger fighting fund grows well in first week
Badger legal fight update September 2020
Badger legal fight update October 2020
Badger legal fight update January 2021

First of all,  huge congratulations to Wild Justice for reaching the funding target for their latest legal challenge on the humaneness of the free shooting of badgers as licensed by Natural England. Follow @WildJustice_org on Twitter, or sign up to their newsletter on the Wild Justice web site to receive email updates with the latest news about the case. It is fantastic to see widening support for the fight against badger culling and we will be in regular contact with Wild Justice as the cases develop.

There is no doubt about the intensely cruel aspects of the culls, but they are also flawed for a range of technical and legal reasons. With support from The Badger Trust, I have now launched an appeal for a new legal case challenging aspects of failed, incomplete or irrational consideration in Defra’s ‘Next Steps’ 5th March policy guidance.

Problems include the ignoring of key recommendations of the 2018 ‘Godfray report’ and the confining of badger vaccination to a minor role, both now and in the future. Additional grounds relate to unaddressed consideration of ecological impacts of wildlife disturbance upon designated nature reserves.

It is important also to challenge the more recently and newly-invented approaches to badger culling in the Low Risk Area (LRA) of the north and east of England. In Cumbria, where cattle brought over from Northern Ireland a few years ago with the bovine TB 17z strain have infected badgers locally. Here there is no restraint to the number of badgers killed. The approach shows the frightening sign of badger massacres to come, as alluded to in the 2020 policy if this approach cannot be stopped.

The poor epidemiology and the speculative ‘risk pathways’ approach of the Animal Plant and Health Agency add up to a policy out of control that must be halted. The licenses issued this June should be revoked and no new licenses issued this year, including for Derbyshire where culling was prevented last year.  The policies should be withdrawn and rethought over a minimum two-year cessation period with advice from stakeholders who have been overlooked.

Otherwise badgers face an unprecedented slaughter over the next two years and beyond, with the door to prolonged mass killing (as in R. o. Ireland since 2004) opening up and no mechanism in place to bring it to an end. These terrible policies must be challenged. Please help me try to help the badgers and promote effective approaches to bovine TB control with a donation if you can.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/help-stop-defra-plans-to-extend-badger-culling/

If you prefer to donate by cheque or bank transfer, please contact me on 01986 784596 or Pat Hayden on 01342 870320 and we will advise you of the arrangements.  Or if you prefer, you can e-mail me on Tom Langton TL@langtonuk.co.uk or Pat on pat@teamopoly.com.  Donations made in this way have the benefit of enabling gift aid to be claimed, if applicable.

Thank you.

Tom Langton

8th July 2020

Badger Fighting Fund grows well in first week

Dear Friends,

A huge “thank you” to all who have donated to the fundraiser and helped to promote it over the last few days.   It is now just over half way to the stretch target of £18,000 within the first week which is pretty good going. Please alert anyone you think might be interested in helping this challenge and point them to our Crowd Justice donations page.  https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/help-stop-defra-plans-to-extend-badger-culling/

An ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ has now been received from Defra laying out their objection to the claims made and the papers should be with a judge for consideration before too long, as permission for a full Judicial Review hearing is sought. Because elements of the 2018 policy as well as the 2020 policy are being pursued, the lawyers are working on that too in order to prepare a comprehensive and complete documentation of concerns.

Today in response to a parliamentary petition, the government repeated its defiant message. This is that in 2017, some carefully selective modelling work using data partly held secret from the public, adds up to a dramatic decrease in bovine TB in places where badgers have been killed. Not only is this conjecture based on uncertain variables, the fanciful and cooked-up claims do not reveal, for example, the spike in bTB in one of the areas in 2018, and the minimal  change in disease prevalence (proportion of herds with bTB ) over the last seven years. It is as if the last two years don’t count in any report of change since 2013. Who do they think they are trying to fool? The public certainly, who were also wrongly told in March that badger culling is being phased out. There are no credible signs or timetable for dropping culling, and only accelerated cruel, bloody badger killing and more and more constraints on vaccination.

So the fight is real and urgent, and you can help by spreading the word and helping us to get the best legal advice possible applied to the situation.

Thank you for caring and for being a part of the battle for the truth and justice for badgers, in the interest of all.

Tom Langton

17th July 2020

Badger legal fight update September 2020

After the hugely disappointing news this June that the Supreme Court would not examine the case against supplementary badger culling, it was time to take stock. The wait had been over six months and during the pause, the 5th March 2020 Defra “Next Steps” response to the 2018 Godfray report was released, having been postponed from before the 2019 General election. There was no good news at all there either.

Badger culling in the Edge Area would start in earnest this year.  There would be no vaccination of badgers to any meaningful extent until their numbers were culled by 70% or more and even then more uncertainty over what exactly was being planned. The new legal challenge to the “Next Steps” was turned down but we have a renewal hearing on 14th  October to make the case for a full Judicial Review.

This addresses various aspects of the new policy, from continuation of supplementary culling to the lack of any rational reasoning for not adopting the key Godfray review recommendations of periodic culling.

This will include the small concession of a two-year cessation of culling after four years, followed by badger vaccination in half of those areas. Aspects of consideration of the lack of assessment of potential ecological damage done by removing badgers on or near to designated nature reserves also remains under challenge.  Meanwhile, the culling spreads across more and more of England.

There are also elements of challenges to the 2018 policy for badger culling (now replaced by the August 2020 Defra guidance to Natural England)  and in particular in the Low Risk Area and the LRA licence for Cumbria.

The lawyers are still working on these.  Here the blame on badgers is comparable to a witch hunt. At a time when there was not even a single breakdown, badgers were culled out of a large part of a 190 square km cull area in 2018 and 2019.

This took place when herd breakdowns were coming down in early 2018 due to enhanced testing. A testimony to the stupidity of the Animal Plant and Health Agency who admitted  the main culprit was cows brought in from Northern Ireland a few years earlier. The APHA approach to bTB epidemiology was crushed by a report by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust this summer yet no action has been taken. When will the madness end?

In the Gloucestershire pilot cull area no.1, where Defra falsely claimed to show badger culling to be working, there has been a spike in bovine TB. This illustrates the futile outcomes from so much killing to no avail since 2013.

This despite sickening statements from the new Minister George Eustice that badger culling is working. He simply seems to spout the same old lines of memorised Defra rhetoric with no attempt at understanding or interpretation of the nuances, exactly the same as when he was junior Minister. Consistently unimpressive. Pleasing the powerful intensive food production lobby groups.

So far, the courts have leant generously towards the government’s position and we have been unable to deliver the killer blow to the badger culls that we crave. Despite this we must battle on as more and more people express their disgust over the spending of public funds killing mostly completely healthy badgers.

We can only continue and point out all the failings at every opportunity. Many thanks to those of you who have supported these efforts in the past and also this year. We must keep up the battle to protect badgers from the appalling forms of persecution that badger culling represents.

With all best wishes, Tom Langton and the Badger Crowd.

4th September 2020

Badger legal fight update October 2020

I’m writing to you with huge disappointment about the legal challenge to the March 2020 policy that many of you have generously helped make possible through your donations.  The so called “Next Steps” policy had failed to include the few positive aspects of the Godfray Report (GR) from 2018. This is Case CO/2062/2020, held at the High Court in London on Wednesday, 14th October, 2020.

The High Court held the Judicial Review permission hearing in Court 16; The Queen on the application of Langton v Secretary Of State For Environment Food And Rural Affairs. The matter was before Mr Justice Cavanagh and the requirement was for parties to attend in person as opposed to via video conferencing so it was not widely available for observation by interested people.

The claim was about Defra not taking up the main finding of the GR in respect of badger-related interventions. This report had very clearly identified a ‘more promising’ strategy of ‘periodic culling’;  that is allowing for a two-year badger cull cessation period (to mirror conditions of the RBCT outcome) after four years of intensive badger culling and then  applying a combination of badger vaccination and intensive culling, should bTB herd breakdowns persist. The GR advice was also highlighted by the recent government position in another court case; a decision to move away from badger culling in the essential actions to reduce bovine TB. This was something that FOI papers show both the Chief Vet and Natural England were anticipating last year, to begin in 2020.

Justice Cavanagh read out a lengthy judgement with just a few embellishments. His view mirrored the government’s defence almost exactly.  He said that the Secretary of State must ‘have regard’ to the GR, but was not obliged to accept its expert advice. He said that it would be wrong to characterise the GR as giving ‘recommendations’. This is quite extraordinary given the specific content of the text and the plain language of the overview summary at the start.  He agreed with Defra that the difference between supplementary culling and periodic culling was merely one of ‘cost and convenience’. This is a misreading of paragraph 6.52 where the text implies periodic culling might bring about the same benefit as was seen in the RBCT, whereas Defra and the judge seemed to imply that the comparison was between periodic culling and supplementary culling, which it is not. Another extraordinary development.

It was also depressing to see Defra‘s argument that cull area data needed to be analysed (modelled in comparison to non-intervention areas) for the value of badger culling to be appreciated. To Defra, raw data is no good, because it only tells you what is happening with disease levels in an area and not why. This is an absolute nonsense. Direct evidence of herd breakdown levels were said to be somehow insufficient, despite obvious face value performance of ‘all measures’ in cull zones, year-on-year being the rational measuring-stick for stakeholders and practitioners; not least farmers and vets. What is the point of being told that badger culling is working when there is no change or an increase overall of herd breakdown incidence and prevalence in an area? Defra have created a policy where failure doesn’t exist. We maintain that it is dangerous and unlawful.

Finally, within the judgement there was a moment that was distracting even from the above considerations. It was that the government is entitled to make the decision not to adopt the findings of an expert review, for political purposes. These are the same words used in the ruling earlier this year by Justice Andrews with respect to a case brought by the NFU against the Secretary of State. In that case, the government’s decision to hold back for a year on culling in Derbyshire in 2019 was because it wanted to find ways to help to ‘tilt’ the bTB eradication policy in favour of badger vaccination. Something that the 2020 bloodbath of tens of thousands of mostly healthy badgers over the last six weeks shows has not happened either. The ecological impacts part of the case was dismissed with brevity

A full hearing should have been granted but was rejected and we have now completed the documentation to appeal the decisions made by the judge. This may take several months and you will be kept informed as matters progress. I can only say, beyond the disappointing turn of events how grateful I am for the continued support that you give, for continued support by Badger Trust-Sussex, The Badger Trust, Badger groups and trusts and many others surrounding the fundraising and technical support.  Also to the legal team and experts who did their best against a government that just seems to want to find ways to kill more and more badgers. We are familiar with the view that you could remove every badger in England and the bovine TB epidemic would still persist and spread due to the massive failings of government policy. We will not let that happen and will redouble efforts to expose the bad science and decisions that surrounds the cull and its ecological impacts in the countryside, all licenced by Natural England. The fight goes on. Thank You.

Tom Langton and the Badger Crowd.

22nd October 2020

Badger legal fight update January 2021

Supplementary Culling in retreat, but the War against English badgers continues

Dear all,

On 27th January 2021, Defra published a new consultation on parts of its March 2020 “Next Steps” Bovine TB eradication policy for England. This aims to continue to mass kill badgers in the last 30% or so of badger strongholds in the High Risk Area of the West of England and across parts of the Edge and Low Risk Areas for the foreseeable future.

Defra intends to make small changes over the next six years as it moves towards ramping up more localised badger culling and apparently some badger vaccination, once populations have been freshly decimated. The final twenty, up to 4-year intensive culls starting in 2021 and 2022 may, with existing kills, shoot up to around a further 150,000 badgers between this Autumn and February 2026. A sickening ‘keep to plan’ commitment with ‘killing as usual’.

The new consultation does not address the policy expansion of ‘reactive’ (localised) culling of 100% of badgers taking place in the Low Risk Area (as e.g. already in parts of Cumbria & Lincs) and potentially across the entire English countryside from the mid-2020’s. Like the March 2020 policy, the recent consultation was unfathomably branded in the media as a major ‘shift in policy’ and ‘badger culling coming to an end’ or ‘banned’.

However, the 6-year phasing out of Supplementary badger culling (SBC), both as a long term sustained killing policy and as a post-intensive cull option, is one of the more notable decisions. As the method for keeping badger numbers low in High Risk bTB Areas, its overdue departure is more than welcome.

This is a victory for those who have funded and supported the Badger Crowd coalition of Badger Groups, Trusts and charities plus many individuals, who enabled legal action against SBC when it was introduced in 2017, based on secret un-reviewed modelling.  The High Court challenges unearthed internal government rationales and they unpeeled the policy decisions. Finally High Court judges only just found favour in government using the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 to introduce SBC, despite the exposure of it as a risk-laden experiment.

Government has spent up to £2 Million over the last 5 years responding, defending and reacting to Judicial Reviews brought by the Badger Crowd and has now made huge concessions in the two cases that went to trial. So a moment of thanks, to all those challenging the policy in a wide variety of ways and to the legal team and experts who have combined so ably to help bring about these significant shifts. It is not unusual for government policy documents, considerations and briefings to now make reference to legal constraints and challenges.

Government giving up on Supplementary culling is a logical reaction to what is being seen on the ground by vets and farmers – no tangible benefits in bTB reduction after huge effort and expenditure killing badgers.  At time of writing, two further Badger Crowd Judicial Review applications are still extant, seeking change to the government’s badger culling policy, including the 2020 policy for which this consultation applies.

The inevitable reduction and plateauing of the rate of increase of bTB breakdowns in the English HRA is not unlike the pattern in the Republic of Ireland. (Figure 1), where the futile killing of badgers now sees bTB herd incidence levels that are similar to those of ten years ago, with cattle testing and movement controls still very poorly addressed.

Read the full article.