A badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis in cattle has been postponed until next summer, the government has confirmed.
DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson made the announcement in a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday (23 October).
The request follows higher than expected badger numbers in two pilot areas of west Gloucestershire and west Somerset.
DEFRA had agreed to postpone the culls to allow farmers to have the best possible chance of carrying out the cull effectively later, said Mr Paterson.
In light of the new figures, the NFU could not be confident of removing the required 70% of the badgers in the two pilot areas this autumn, he added.
Farmers delivering the policy had concluded they could not be confident enough badgers could be removed considering the lateness of the season.
“It would be wrong to go ahead if those on the ground cannot be confident of removing at least 70% of the populations,” said Mr Paterson.
“Today, I have received a letter from the president of the NFU, on behalf of the companies coordinating the culls, explaining why they do not feel they can go ahead this year.”
The letter requested that the cull be postponed until next summer, said Mr Paterson.
“In these circumstances, it is the right thing to do and, as the people who have to deliver this policy on the ground and work within the science, I respect their decision.”
Mr Paterson said the government was determined to tackle bovine TB by all available means.
“Now, in the next few months, we will ensure that the pilot culls can be implemented effectively, in the best possible conditions, with the right resources.
“Having looked at all the evidence over many years, I am utterly convinced that badger control is the right thing to do, and indeed the higher than expected badger numbers only serve to underline the need for urgent action.
“I remain fully committed to working with the farming industry to ensure that the pilot culls can be delivered effectively, safely and humanely next summer."
Survey results published last week revealed estimated badger populations of 4,300 in West Somerset and 3,600 in West Gloucestershire - far higher than previous data suggested.
The criteria for the two cull zones includes a target to remove at least 70% of the local badger populations in each area.Johann Tasker on G+
If you are a livestock farmer affected by the cull postponement and you'd like to comment, you can contact news reporter Phil Case on telephone number 020 8652 4905 or email Philip Case
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