September 26, 2013
DEFRA Appeals Ruling to Release Uncensored Humaneness Information
by Mark Jones
Eleven months on, and our attempt to access information on how “humaneness” is to be assessed during the badger culls has been thwarted again after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) launched a last-minute appeal against an order to release the details, issued by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
The assessment of whether killing more than 70 per cent of badgers in a cull zone within a six-week period can be done humanely is one of the three reasons stated by DEFRA for doing the pilot culls.
Gravely concerned about the potential suffering of badgers targeted, HSI has been trying to establish how the department plans to measure the humaneness, or otherwise, of the methods employed by gunmen to shoot badgers.
Decision on cull roll-out
That data, collected during the pilot culls, will be assessed by Ministers before any decision on whether to roll out the killing to other areas of England is made—a decision on which the fate of up to 130,000 animals in up to 40 different areas of England could depend over the coming years. Therefore, it is important that the information be in the public domain to allow the public and parliamentarians to see it and to ensure it can be independently reviewed and evaluated.
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HSI/UK sumbitted a Freedom of Information request to DEFRA, asking five specific questions, in October 2012. DEFRA has resisted disclosure ever since. HSI involved the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the body that oversees Freedom of Information requests, in January 2013. The ICO ruled in HSI's favour and requested that DEFRA release the information in August 2013; DEFRA lodged an appeal against that decision in September 2013.
After almost a year, this last 11th-hour appeal seems to be nothing more than a cynical move by DEFRA to keep secret important information about how badger pain and suffering is to be assessed during the pilot cull.
Further information about DEFRA's lack of transparency is included in Team Badger's report, "Keeping The Public In The Dark".
Find out more about our campaign to protect badgers.
Mark Jones is executive director of HSI/UK.