The NFU has applauded a legal ruling to allow a badger cull in England, describing it as a "critically important for cattle farmers and their families" in tackling bovine tuberculosis.
The Badger Trust's bid to derail the badger cull failed today (Tuesday, 11 September) when a panel of three judges upheld a High Court decision, which gave the go-ahead for a pilot badger cull.
The trust had challenged Mr Justice Ouseley's decision in July to uphold government plans for two pilot culls to tackle bovine tuberculosis in cattle - one in west Gloucestershire and another in west Somerset.
The Badger Trust had claimed that culling badgers would not reduce bovine TB, but could actually increase the disease.
The trust said culling would lead to as many as 40,000 badgers being "pointlessly killed" over a four-year period.
But sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Rimer and Lord Justice Sullivan unanimously rejected the appeal, which argued that statutory powers were being incorrectly used by the government.
The NFU said it was "reassured by the outcome of the case", adding it was "pleased that the judges had upheld the High Court's decision".
NFU head of food and farming Phil Hudson said: "This news is critically important to cattle farmers and their families who are blighted with this disease on their farms.
"The NFU remains fully committed to supporting the government's science-led TB eradication policy to tackle what is a terrible and damaging disease.
"The NFU remains fully committed to supporting the government's science-led TB eradication policy to tackle what is a terrible and damaging disease."
Phil Hudson, NFU
"Our end goal is for a healthy countryside and that needs healthy badgers and healthy cattle. This policy, and these pilots, will help to deliver that.
"We will now work to help those delivering the two pilot culls to ensure they that they are safe, effective and humane."
The government says a badger cull is a vital tool to combat bovine TB, which costs the UK economy nearly £100m a year.
A DEFRA spokesman said: "We are pleased with the judgement. We will continue to work with the farming industry so badger control in two pilot areas can start as soon as is practical.
"No one wants to cull badgers but last year bovine TB led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle and to help eradicate the disease it needs to be tackled in badgers."
Badger Trust spokesman Jack Reedy said: "The Badger Trust is disappointed that the Court of Appeal has upheld the decision on the High Court not to grant a Judicial Review of the government's policy of culling badgers.
"This is a judgment of the law which has now been clarified. However, the Badger Protection Act remains unfit for its purpose of protecting the species.
"The science relating to culling in an attempt to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis remains unaffected and remains against scientific policies. Unfortunately, scientific facts cannot be tested in court."
Mr Reedy added the trust would be checking the wording of the ruling before deciding if there is any other possibility to appeal.
Earlier, Natural England said it was working "flat out" to process licensing applications for marksmen who have been trained to carry out the culling.
The early decision by the court, which had been expected to reserve judgement, could mean that culling starts in England this year as planned.
However, the Humane Society International UK has called on the government to postpone the cull to allow the Council of Europe Bern Convention time to process a formal complaint the society submitted this autumn, signed by a host of celebrities.
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