The decision to launch a badger cull in Northern Ireland (NI) is to be legally challenged in the courts by Wild Justice and Northern Ireland Badger Group (NIBG).

The wildlife groups have applied for judicial review of the decision announced last week by Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots. 

Wild Justice and NIBG, supported by the Born Free Foundation, say the cull of approximately 4,000 badgers in one year by shooting is inhumane and will not be effective in getting rid of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).
The groups claim that the consultation about whether to go ahead with the controversial programme of shooting badgers withheld vital information so that contributors were not able to participate effectively.

The application for judicial review was filed at the Royal Courts of Justice in Northern Ireland on Wednesday, March 30 following Mr Poots’ statement on Thursday, March 24. 

In light of the fact that culling could begin as early as July 2022, the groups have asked for an early court hearing.

The announcement followed a consultation launched in July 2021, when DAERA asked for views on a strategy to eradicate bTB in Northern Ireland.

According to NIBG, the consultation confirmed that DAERA’s long-term aim was to vaccinate badgers to reduce the spread of bTB and support a healthy badger population, but that it was first necessary to reduce the infection load in the badger population, by culling. 

NIBG also points to the consultation repeatedly stating that the strategy was underpinned by a “business case”, which explored different methods of reducing the disease in badgers prior to a vaccination-only intervention.

Wild Justice, NIBG and Born Free also point to recent research which reveals there is no evidence to suggest that badger culling in England has resulted in any reduction in cattle herd bTB incidence or prevalence.
Born Free head of policy, Dr. Mark Jones is also the joint author of the research paper suggesting that badger culling in England has failed to reduce the incidence or prevalence of bTB in cattle herds. 

A spokesperson for Wild Justice said:  

“We oppose a badger cull in Northern Ireland because we believe it will be ineffective, know that it will be inhumane, and we are advised that it is based on an unlawful, bungled public consultation. DAERA should think again and we hope our legal challenge forces that to happen.”

He added:

“Instead of blindly following the ineffective and inhumane badger culling policy employed in England, the authorities in Northern Ireland should be following the progressive approach adopted in Wales which is succeeding in reducing the impacts of bovine TB without killing wildlife.” 

Mike Rendle of NIBG said: 

“This indiscriminate badger cull will kill thousands of badgers using a method that has been branded by the UK government’s independent expert panel as ineffective and inhumane.

“It is disingenuous to claim that shooting badgers will lead to a healthier wildlife population when the majority of those killed will not have TB,” he said.