The cull was to be a key part of Northern Ireland’s strategy to tackle bTB.
A high court judge in Northern Ireland has blocked a planned badger cull, following a legal challenge by animal welfare campaigners.
The cull had originally been announced by then agriculture minister Edwin Poots in March 2022 as a key part of a bovine tuberculosis (bTB) eradication strategy for Northern Ireland.
However, following a legal challenge brought by Wild Justice and the Northern Ireland Badger Group, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) will now have to suspend the planned cull.
Delivering his ruling on Wednesday, 25 October, Mr Justice Scofield found that before announcing the policy, DAERA had not conducted a fair and lawful public consultation and failed to advise the minister about animal welfare concerns.
The department carried out a consultation in 2021, which received more than 3,000 responses, but the judge ruled that insufficient information was provided to those responding to the consultation about the basis for the proposed decision.
As the topic was 'highly emotive' and involved a 'highly contested scientific backdrop', the department should have disclosed much more of its rationale, according to the judgement.
In March this year, herd incidence of bTB in Northern Ireland reached a record high. It has not yet been announced whether DAERA will conduct a new consultation.
Mike Rendle of the Northern Ireland Badger Group said: “Today’s judgement has vindicated our very grave concerns about the way the bovine TB strategy consultation was conducted and the decision to implement a farmer-led cull which would inflict immense suffering on great numbers of healthy badgers.”
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