THE Badger Trust has made an application for a judicial review of the badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire, challenging the decision to continue the cull trials.

The announcement comes shortly after a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Defra is testing gassing as a method of culling badgers.

No animals have been involved in the trials and a spokesperson for Defra said it ‘was not possible to say if or when gassing is likely to be a realistic or humane method of culling’.

The badger trust says that Owen Paterson’s decision to continue the culls was unlawful as he ‘unlawfully failed to put in place any Independent Expert Panel for the planned culling of badgers.’

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and policy advisor at Care for the Wild said: “The badger cull policy has been a complete and utter failure on scientific, economic and humaneness grounds.

“There is no justification for continuing with this failed policy which no longer has the confidence of the public, politicians and increasingly the veterinary and farming industry.

"It is not acceptable for the DEFRA secretary of state to push aside the concerns of both the Independent Expert Panel and the British Veterinary Association, by pushing ahead with a further badger cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset this summer without any independent monitoring in place.

“To then make any decision on a national roll out without these safeguards in place, is in our view illegal and will lead to huge public and political anger.”

Adrian Coward, chairman of the Somerset Trust Badger Group added: "It is just shocking.

"The government said they weren't going to look at gassing and now a Freedom of Information reveals that they have.

"It just makes me wonder what else they're hiding or have lied about.

"Otehr animals could be harmed by this, we don't know where they're testing.

"I'm glad that the Badger Trust is pushing for a Judicial Review." 

Pauline Kidner from Secret World said: "We are concerned about the recent reports of research into the gassing of badgers.

"No gas has been found to be safe, humane and effective.

"Gassing was made illegal in 1979 when they were using hydrogen cyanide. 

"We are therefore gravely concerned that the use of gassing will be inhumane not only to badgers but all wildlife likely to share the sett and could be of risk to humans as well."

Independent experts found that that shooting free-running badgers last year was ineffective and failed to meet the humaneness criteria. 

The scheme was suppose to kill around 70% of free-running badgers however this target was not met – even with a three week extension, and more than 5% of badgers took longer than five minutes to die.