As 2012 draws to a close we take a look at some of the events that marked the year. The badger cull saw furious debates from both sides of the argument but still didn’t come to pass
Progress towards controlling bovine tuberculosis was start-stop in 2012 as the battle between pro- and anti-badger cull camps intensified.
DEFRA announced the locations of pilot badger culling sites in January. Two areas – one in Gloucestershire and one in Somerset – were earmarked as culling zones. The aim was to begin the cull of 70% of badgers in each area in the late spring once the breeding season had ended.
The announcement sparked an increase in activity from campaigners. The Badger Trust said it would mount a legal challenge, while Queen’s Brian May appeared on ITV’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show to drum up anti-cull support.
The Badger Trust’s legal challenge finally reached the High Court, London, at the end of June. Media coverage was now widespread. Mr May launched an e-petition that quickly drew tens of thousands of signatures from the public. A steady trail of celebrities joined Mr May – including wildlife presenters Bill Oddie and Chris Packham – to voice their support for the anti-badger cull campaign. The RSPCA, under the control of its chief executive Gavin Grant, leant further weight to the cause.
On 12 July the judge rejected the Badger Trust’s challenge, giving the green light for the cull.
Among the cull’s opponents a more sinister element emerged as a cull appeared to be becoming a reality. Gloucestershire farmer Jan Rowe, who had spoken out in favour of the culls, received threatening telephone calls. NFU president Peter Kendall was also targeted with phone calls to his family home.
Then, in August, the green light for the cull once again turned red as the Badger Trust launched another legal challenge, claiming the judge’s decision had been flawed.
As prospects for the cull were tied up in the courtroom a new threat was growing. Time was fast beginning to run out. Experts suggested a minimum of six weeks was needed, before the closed period started on 1 December. On 11 September, the review panel of three judges convened and quashed the Badger Trust’s appeal.
A race against time began.
Hardware for the cull was amassed, the logistics were progressing, but no announcement was made of the cull’s go-ahead. Last-minute hitches with licensing at Natural England were blamed. But as mid-October passed and deadline day loomed, doubts began to surface. Unknown to all but a few officials an unforeseen factor had been discovered. The badger population was huge – far greater than had been thought. Culling the 70% of badgers needed would be impossible in the time remaining. At the very last moment culling plans were shelved until 2013.
Keep up with the latest on the badger cull