From Wildlife Extra:
Information Commissioner says DEFRA wrong to withhold information on badger cull suffering
August 2013. The Information Commissioner has ruled that DEFRA was wrong to refuse animal charity Humane Society International/UK access to information about how it intends to assess the ‘humaneness’ of its badger cull. DEFRA has been given 35 days to disclose information that HSI UK first requested under the Freedom of Information Act in October 2012 about how the suffering of badgers will be assessed during the imminent pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
HSI UK is extremely concerned that the Government’s plans for badgers to be shot at night with high velocity rifles and shot guns, will result in considerable animal suffering. So in October 2012 HSI UK asked DEFRA to make public information related to its so-called ‘humaneness assessment’ – one of the key stated purposes of the pilot culls.
‘Delay and time wasting’
After much delay and time wasting, in May 2013 DEFRA supplied a heavily redacted document which withheld substantial amounts of information relating to three of HSI UK’s five questions. It cited various sections of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 as its excuse for refusing disclosure. HSI/UK appealed and following an investigation, the Information Commissioner’s Office has found in HSI UK’s favour, declaring that DEFRA incorrectly applied the EIR and ordering it to disclose the redacted information.
Extensive physical injury
HSI UK’s persistence has already forced DEFRA to reveal that it expects many badgers will be shot and mortally wounded but not killed outright during the pilot culls. Official DEFRA documents reveal that these animals are expected to suffer extensive physical injury and die from shock, excessive bleeding and starvation due to physical injury.
Some 240 badger carcasses will be collected for examination, however, DEFRA has consistently refused to answer how these carcasses will be selected for post mortem examination; what examination protocols will be used to determine humaneness; and how shot and wounded badgers who retreat underground to die (and will arguably suffer the most) will be factored in to the humaneness assessment.
Under the EIR, a public authority can refuse disclosure if it would adversely affect (amongst others) public safety and the environment. DEFRA argued that it would but the ICO said it was not justified in doing so, concluding that “the Commissioner does not accept that disclosure would have the adverse effect claimed.”
Mark Jones, HSI UK’s Executive Director, said: “DEFRA has been stalling for many months, clearly trying to avoid making public this information about how the suffering of shot badgers will be assessed. We are delighted that the Information Commissioner has instructed DEFRA to reveal the information, information that should have been released many months ago so that the proposed methods and criteria could have been examined by independent experts before a single badger is shot. DEFRA has used every trick in the book to prevent disclosure, including delay and misuse of regulations designed to ensure government transparency. In doing so it has undermined its own efforts to defend the credibility of this flawed policy, and the Coalition’s grand post-election promises for more open government.
‘We look forward to receiving the withheld information on humaneness assessment without further delay, and call upon Ministers to postpone the badger cull to allow time for its humaneness assessment methods to be scrutinised by independent experts.”
DEFRA has 35 calendar days to release the information, or 28 days to appeal the decision.
- Badger cull: only small proportion of shootings to be monitored for humaneness (theguardian.com)
- Will badger cull damage Cameron’s reputation? (theweek.co.uk)
- Badgers: The truth behind the cull (theecologist.org)
- Badgers could be given contraceptive pill to fight TB spread (itv.com)
- Roadkill nation: There’s already a badger cull happening… on Britain’s highways (independent.co.uk)
- Badger cull: Farmers flout TB cattle rules (express.co.uk)
- Secret badger shoots pose ‘a risk to public safety’ (guardian.co.uk)