The Badger Trust had launched a Judicial Review of the Secretary of State’s decision to continue the pilot culls without independent oversight.
It claimed Defra should have put in place a scrutiny panel to assess the effectiveness and humaneness of the cull.
But the Administrative Court has today dismissed its claim.
The Badger Trust said it was under the impression from statements made by Defra Secretary Liz Truss’ predecessors that an independent expert panel (IEP) would oversee and analyse the results from the pilot culls until a final decision was made on whether or not to roll out the culls to other areas.
However, despite the IEP finding the first year of the pilot culls failed to achieve appropriate standards of both effectiveness and humaneness, the Secretary of State decided to continue the pilot culls with a view to a future roll-out, but without independent oversight to ensure such standards can actually be met.
The Badger Trust brought proceedings to prevent the Secretary of State from ‘breaking her promise’.
The Administrative Court today found, as a matter of law, the Secretary of State’s assurances did not amount to an enforceable legitimate expectation.
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said they were reviewing their options in wake of the judgment.
He said: “The only sensible option for the Secretary of State is to call a halt to these pilots and the potentially unnecessary and inhumane deaths of hundreds of badgers.
“However, if she is not willing to do so, we call on Ms Truss to reinstate the IEP. As counsel for the Trust, David Wolfe QC, observed during the hearing, the Secretary of State is not just moving the goal posts, but has banished the independent referee from the pitch.
“Whatever happens during the second year of the culls, in the absence of the IEP, it will be impossible to trust any findings supporting a wider roll out, not least because this is already clearly the preferred option of the Secretary of State.”
Defra welcomed the announcement.
A spokesman said: “We are pleased the judge has found in our favour, as we have always been clear the independent expert panel’s role was to oversee the 6-week pilots in the first year of the culls only.
“This year we have made changes to monitor effectiveness and humaneness and the culls will be independently audited.
“We have a comprehensive strategy to make England TB free including strict cattle movement controls and badger vaccination, but overseas experience shows that we will not beat the disease without also culling badgers where the disease is rife.”
Defra announced this week the culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire would go ahead for a second year in a row.