A raft of legal issues must be overcome before a badger cull can properly go ahead, an expert has warned.

Groups of farmers would find it “quite onerous” to comply with Natural England requirements enabling a cull to proceed, said solicitor Tim Russ, head of agriculture at law firm Clarke Willmott.

“It is a complete legal bag of nails,” Mr Russ told Farmers Weekly. “There are all sorts of things to sort out and a huge amount of political will is going to be needed to get this policy through.”

As an NFU panel solicitor, Mr Russ has been working with the union to help determine the best legal structure for groups of livestock farmers on whose land any cull will take place. “It is vital the NFU gets its members on board,” he said.

DEFRA ministers had chosen to embark on a consultation followed by a pilot cull on behalf of groups of farmers in the hope of avoiding a “Welsh-style judicial review disaster” which had delayed plans to tackle bovine TB in Wales.

Groups of farmers did not have a particularly good record of working together when it came to business structures, Mr Russ warned. “Although they have unity of purpose here, it remains to be seen whether they can work together.”

Support for a cull was likely to be strongest in livestock areas, he said. But securing backing from enough farmers would be more of a challenge in larger areas where livestock were interspersed with arable holdings.

“If you find yourself next door to farmland where a farmer doesn’t want to join the cull, you may have to entice badgers into the killing zone using bait over a period of time to avoid trespass issues.”

Then there were issues regarding insurance. Shooting badgers was highly dangerous, Mr Russ said. “If you shoot a badger at a killing distance of over one mile and somebody gets in the way you will end up with quite a large claim.”

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