Farmer wins right to challenge DEFRA over TB bull

A farmer has won the High Court’s permission to challenge a decision to slaughter his prize-winning bull after it tested positive for bovine TB.

Ken Jackson, of Forlorn Hope farm in South Yorkshire, said it was “absolutely brilliant” after a judge gave him the go-ahead to have one more attempt to save the life of Hallmark Boxter in a hearing on 26 January.

The TB alert on Forlorn Hope farm arose early last year after a bought-in beef heifer was found to be a carrier. The vets then condemned six more animals, including the bull, because there were grounds for suspicion that they, too, had been exposed.

Mr Jackson disputed the validity of the TB test and has been fighting since August 2010 for a re-test, offering to pay for it personally.

He argued that the DEFRA officers who took the sample mixed two half-full vials in the field – contrary to written procedures – and wanted the positive test declared null and void.

Deputy high court judge Rabinder Singh QC ruled the farmer had “an arguable case” and ordered that his bid to overturn the bull’s death sentence should be heard at the court as a matter of urgency.

Julie Anderson, representing DEFRA, told the judge the department was “unhappy and concerned” that the bull had still not been slaughtered as it posed a disease threat.

She said DEFRA was not being “high-handed”, but it was now “far too late” to conduct an effective fresh test and it was impossible to prove the bull was free of TB.