Defra denies allegations of “secret report”

Care for the Wild has criticised Defra and Natural England over an alleged "secret report" which Defra claims does not exist.

The charity accused Defra and Natural England of producing a "secret report" after it made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request which mentioned a report.

The FOI stated: "The pilot culls have now been completed and the official report containing the culls’ findings has been prepared. The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) is examining the report and will present their findings to ministers early next year."

Care for the Wild has contacted the Shadow Environment Minister Huw Irranca Davies MP who is seeking immediate disclosure from Owen Paterson and a debate on its content by MPs.

Policy advisor for Care for the Wild Dominic Dyer said: "Owen Paterson has been as difficult to find as Lord Lucan since the end of the disastrous badger cull pilots. He has refused to discuss the outcome of the pilot culls with MPs, the media or the wider public. Instead we learn that he has commissioned an emergency review of the disastrous cull policy, which he is now declining to share with MPs or debate in Parliament.

"The fact this report has been produced in advance of the so-called Independent Panel undertaking its review of the pilot cull trials is very worrying, as it’s a clear sign that the Panel is little more than window dressing. It implies that the political decision to roll out the cull has already been taken by Owen Paterson and the National Farmers Union without any scientific, animal welfare or economic justification."

Dyer further stated that Paterson and the NFU must "stop determining government policy in backrooms" and disclose full contents of the cull pilot review.

"The badger cull should then return to Parliament for a full debate and vote, and the Prime Minister should ensure Owen Paterson attends this debate and is held accountable for this disastrous policy, in the face of increasing anger from MPs across all parties," he added.

A spokesperson for RSPCA said it agrees that action is needed to stop plans to roll out culls across the country.

She added: "Now is the time for MPs to speak up and make sure these crazy plans for ten possible culls in the next year are not made in secret. It is clear that the pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire have been a colossal failure from start to finish and the idea of continuing the cull in other areas goes against the science, humaneness and even the tests set by the Government. Yet ministers seem deaf to any cry other than killing badgers.

"The issue needs to be brought back to parliament for proper political scrutiny, and that the report into the pilot culls made public, before any decision on the badger cull roll out."

However, a Defra spokesperson denied the claims by Care for the Wild and said: "There is no secret report on the badger cull. The independent expert panel is considering the findings of the badger cull pilots and, as we have always made clear, this report will be published. This report will inform a decision on whether to roll out cull licences to other areas."