The NFU has responded to the High Court judgement on the forbidding of the Derbyshire badger cull handed down on Wednesday 13 May 2020 when the challenge was dismissed on all grounds.
Unexpectedly the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs issued a direction to Natural England forbidding the issue of a licence to cull badgers in the County of Derbyshire on 6th September 2019 on the eve of the start of operations
NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “I am shocked and dismayed by the decision of the High Court. The actions of the government last September amounted to a complete U-turn on established government policy. The eleventh-hour direction by the Secretary of State was made against absolutely all the scientific and veterinary advice and left farmers in the Derbyshire area, who met all the licence criteria, completely devastated. Many of them had seen this cull as their last hope at dealing with this awful disease which has been devastating their cattle herds and crippling their business for years.
“It remains our view that it simply cannot be lawful for the government to make policy up on the hoof. Affected farmers invest a huge amount of time and money applying for a licence and they are entitled to have their application dealt with fairly.
“Bovine TB is a devastating disease that is causing untold hardship for family farming businesses across large parts of the country. The impact of the decision to abandon the cull at the last minute has left affected farmers across Derbyshire in despair. What happened to them has completely undermined their confidence in government policy.
“In the judgment, Mrs Justice Andrews says that farmers in the Derbyshire area had satisfied all of the government’s requirements for a licence and ‘had every reason to anticipate a licence being issued’, only to be told at the last minute that they would not be issued a licence ‘for reasons that were not canvassed with them in the course of the application process’.
“Nonetheless, she said that this U-turn was not unlawful because the government was allowed to prevent Natural England issuing the licence for ‘political’ reasons.
“Today’s judgment will have a chilling effect on farmers looking to engage with government on TB policy in the future. If the government’s arguments in this case are right and it can disregard its own policies at the final second, how can farmers ever trust again that the government will do what it says it will?
“We are considering our next options with our legal team and with the affected farmers in Derbyshire.”