Government ministers have delayed making an announcement on badger culling until mid-May, after the local elections.

Farm minister Jim Paice had earmarked February for a decision on whether to use culling as a method to control bovine tuberculosis.

Timing of the announcement was crucial, if any cull was to go ahead, because the government would need to begin killing badgers in the late spring as soon as the breeding season was over.

The tight time window for culling – between spring and autumn – meant that a delay of three months could put back a cull until spring 2012.

Industry insiders have suggested that an announcement in May suited the government for a number of reasons.

DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman’s u-turn on the national forestry sell-off has thrown an unwelcome spotlight on the department’s activities.

One insider told the BBC that DEFRA did not want to “mess up” again and intended to make sure details of the TB control announcement were thoroughly thought through.

And waiting until after the local elections on 5 May would side-step any public backlash at the ballot box.

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