DEFRA farm minister Jim Paice has confirmed that badgers will be culled to combat bovine tuberculosis in cattle.

A targeted cull of badgers will take place once the right “hot spot” locations have been identified.

Mr Paice made the pledge during a visit to the Devon County Show on Thursday (20 May).

“Down here in the south west, in Devon, clearly bovine TB is a major problem. The coalition agreement quite clearly says that we will carry out a scientifically-led targeted cull of badgers in hot spot areas,” Mr Paice told show visitors.

But exactly when the cull will take place remains to be seen.

“I can’t give you a precise timetable because clearly we’ve got to work out how it’s going to happen and who’s going to do it and how it’s going to be monitored, all those things,” Mr Paice said.

A DEFRA spokeswoman added, “The coalition has committed itself to badger control in areas of high incidence. The coalition includes culling in a package of measures.The package will include the vaccination option. 

“The pilot in Wales will be informative about the implementation and rollout of a cull. The fact that a cull is about to start in Pembrokeshire is an interesting opportunity for us to see how a cull can be achieved. We will all learn from the way Wales embarks upon it.”

Speaking earlier this week, DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman had remained tight-lipped when asked about a timetable.

The government would review the situation before taking action, she suggested.

“I am a great believer in evidence-led decision-making, so let’s first of all look at the science – all options need to be looked at,” said Mrs Spelman.

The Badger Trust, which opposes a cull, said it would continue to seek all legal means of preventing the cull.

“The overwhelming scientific evidence and research shows that it is not the way to control bovine TB,” said trust chairman Dave Williams.

“It has been tried for many years in one form or another, and it has never worked.”

The Badger Trust recognised that bovine TB in cattle was a major problem for farmers, acknowledged Mr Williams.

“A solution is needed, but it must be the right solution, based on science, and one which is cost effective and has real, long-term benefits. “