The government’s long-awaited proposals for controlling bovine tuberculosis are expected to be unveiled next week.

The DEFRA plans will be made in response to recommendations by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee on improving control of the disease.

They were due to be released last month but were delayed after DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn asked for more time to consider the complex problem.

Mixed messages

It had been widely expected that DEFRA would ignore calls for a badger cull, as Mr Benn had privately told colleagues in the past that he was “not persuaded by the science” behind it.

However, NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said there were “mixed messages” over which way the decision would go.

“Certain people are saying the government won’t change its wildlife strategy, but then we are picking up vibes that we might be pleasantly surprised,” he said.

“If the government is serious about tackling this disease, this is a wonderful opportunity for it to prove it is prepared to work in partnership with the farming industry.

“The talking has gone on long enough. I hope the government has the courage to make the right decision.”

Out of control

Jilly Greed, from the National Beef Association South West, said she was concerned about what the proposals would be.

“The huge concern is that in parts of the country, particularly in Devon, the situation isn’t out of control, it’s beyond control.

“There is too much political prevarication and unwillingness to deal with the measures that need to be taken.

Bill Harper, South West National Beef Association chairman, is set to meet MEPs later this month in a bid to get Europe to put greater pressure on the British government to properly tackle the disease, she added.

“We don’t have the luxury of time with the level of disease in the country.”