Page last updated at 21:03 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Pembrokeshire badger cull court appeal bid closes

A badger
The judge's ruling will most likely be published next month

A legal challenge to the assembly government's decision to cull badgers in Pembrokeshire has finished taking evidence at a hearing in Swansea.

Justice Lloyd Jones will now consider the representations before making a ruling, possibly not until next month.

Animal charity the Badger Trust applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the proposed cull, aimed at combating bovine TB infection.

The assembly government said studies indicate it may tackle the infection.

During two days of submissions, the judge heard detailed arguments from barristers representing both sides.

He will make a written judgement, possibly by the middle of next week but more likely in April.

There is a time constraint as the assembly government hopes to start the cull in May.

Timothy Corner QC, on behalf of the assembly government, said there was no dispute about the significance of bovine TB and the effect on cattle in Wales and the UK.

Scientific evidence

He argued there was a lack of evidence for vaccinating badgers and it had not been qualified scientifically.

He said the Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones had to make a decision given the seriousness of the bovine TB epidemic in Wales rather than wait for a vaccine.

The Badger Trust's barrister David Wolfe countered by saying that there seemed to be a different approach to pushing forward with the cull in Pembrokeshire while possibly vaccinating in other parts of Wales at a later date.

He also questioned whether the minister had made her decision based on all the facts and all the scientific evidence available.

He referred to a meeting last September when an assembly government official met Defra officials and an unpublished paper at that time seemed to suggest there were fewer benefits to culling badgers than originally thought.

The trust has enjoyed the support of Brian May - best known as guitarist with the rock group Queen.

But a farming union that backed the cull branded his attendance at the hearing as a "cynical publicity stunt".

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