Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers ignored expert veterinary and scientific advice when she pulled the plug on the Derbyshire badger cull, according to the NFU.
The shocking revelation came as the union formally lodged a legal challenge to the Government’s decision to reject the cull.
In September, NFU bosses promised to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in their pursuit to reverse the last-minute decision, which infuriated farmers and cull companies who had spent time preparing for the cull.
At the time, Ms Villiers said she wanted to further consider the relationship between culling and vaccination in Edge Areas such as Derbyshire, and hinted that compensation could be made available to those affected by the u-turn.
NFU vice 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.”
Ms Villiers’ decision is believed to have followed an eleventh-hour intervention by the Prime Minister’s partner and long-standing opponent of the badger cull, Carrie Symonds, who met Badger Trust chief executive Dominic Dyer in the weeks before it was made.
Though Ms Symonds has denied any involvement in the Derbyshire decision, farmers on social media made clear they believed the meeting was inappropriate.
If the NFU is successful in its legal challenge, culling could begin in autumn 2020.
Defra was unable to comment due to pre-election rules, but has been notified of the challenge.