THE approval of a judicial review into the proposed badger cull pilot in West Somerset could see the scheme scrapped.

In December last year, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced plans to cull badgers in specific areas to help stop the spread of bovine TB.

The Badger Trust lodged a legal challenge in February.

Mr Justice Irwin granted permission for the trust’s judicial review to go ahead last Friday on the grounds that the cull may not fulfil the legal criteria for preventing the spread of the disease, that Defra’s cost assessment is flawed and that Natural England’s role as the licensing authority is invalid as killing badgers is not one of its specified functions.

Adrian Coward, chairman of the Somerset Trust Badger Group, said: “We are pleased that the law courts have allowed Badger Trust to proceed to a judicial review on all three grounds submitted. We can only hope that common sense prevails and the proposed badger killing is not allowed.

“We now have a workable vaccine for badgers which is sustainable and will improve the situation in conjunction with cattle-based measures until the much-needed cattle vaccine is approved for use.

“We are relieved that many well-informed farmers and landowners now see that killing badgers is not the answer to the Bovine TB problem.

“We fully understand the huge problem that Bovine TB causes farmers and are always prepared to work with farmers to help in any way we can.”

The National Farmers Union (NFU), which says TB causes 25,000 cattle to be slaughtered and costs £100million every year, does not support the review.

South West NFU spokesman Ian Johnson said: “It is absolutely no surprise that the Badger Trust has done this but it is misguided.

“Nowhere in the world has TB been tackled successfully without controlling the disease in the wild.

“The NFU supports the badger control pilots and hopes this hearing will be dealt with quickly and efficiently to allow TB to be combated.”

The case is likely to be heard in the High Court in June.