Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers has admitted ‘engaging’ with Number 10 on the last-minute decision to stop the Derbyshire badger cull.
Farmers have always suspected the u-turn was the result of an intervention by the Prime Minister’s partner and long-standing badger cull opponent, Carrie Symonds, who met Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer in the weeks before the decision was taken.
Though she has previously denied any involvement, many in the rural community made clear on social media that they believed the meeting was inappropriate.
Asked by Farmers Guardian whether Number 10 had given any instruction at all on the decision to stop the Derbyshire badger cull, Ms Villiers said: “Certainly we engaged with Number 10 on the decision on Derbyshire, yes.”
She went on to claim she was not given a specific ‘direction’ by the Prime Minister’s office, but admitted a ‘conversation’ had taken place about the interaction of the badger vaccination project and control methods.
Ms Symonds has already been named in court papers submitted by the NFU, which has applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision.
Speaking to FG after the legal challenge was lodged in December 2019, the union’s deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “We think what the Secretary of State did is unlawful, and that is why we are launching this legal challenge.
“Alongside the Derbyshire farmers, we are asking the court to rule the direction issued to Natural England should be overturned.
“It has come to light that before the Secretary of State made her decision, her expert veterinary and scientific advisers told her a licence should be issued to the Derbyshire area to prevent the spread of bovine TB.
“It remains our view that any policy decisions must be based on science and evidence.”