Strict criteria make it unlikely that ordinary farmers will be able to participate directly in a badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis.
Licences to shoot badgers will be limited to expert marksmen, according to a government consultation document published on Tuesday (19 July).
The nine-week consultation is being conducted ahead of a trial badger cull in two pilot areas expected to go ahead next summer in south-west England.
Marksmen will have to demonstrate competence and attend an approved training course before being allowed to cull badgers by controlled shooting.
Training would comprise attendance at a special government-approved course for people who already hold a deer stalking certificate or equivalent – which assesses marksmanship.
This badger-specific course would include training to cover the anatomical and behavioural characteristics of badgers and how they differ from those of other species. Additional marksmanship training and assessment would be required for those who may have experience but no formal qualification.
The farming industry would be expected to design, organise and deliver these training courses. DEFRA would appoint independent auditors to ensure that standards are met and maintained. The licence conditions would also require all operators to adhere to best practice guidance issued by DEFRA and Natural England.
“We are confident that controlled shooting is an effective and humane shooting method given its widespread use in other species, and that the further measures outlined above will ensure this,” says the government consultation document.
“However, in the light of the concerns that have been raised, we propose to take a precautionary approach through a pilot of the policy; initially licensing two areas in the first year, which will be closely monitored.”
Results will be examined by a panel of independent scientific experts. If controlled shooting is found to be effective and humane by this independent panel, then, and only then, would the policy be rolled out to other areas.
Monitoring would continue throughout the culling period in all licensed areas to ensure standards are maintained.
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