The government is getting close to resolving potential legal issues raised by a badger cull and expects to announce a package of measures in July.
Farm minister Jim Paice said the TB consultation, which concluded in December, had raised some serious issues, sparking myriad negotiations behind the scenes.
“We’re getting pretty close to addressing it all and we hope to make a final announcement in July – not only on the issue of badgers, but also on a whole package of measures.”
Speaking at the Royal Cornwall Show on Thursday (9 June), Mr Paice said the government had been closely following developments in Wales regarding a badger cull.
“They’ve been in and out of the courts several times. There is no doubt we would be faced with a judicial review if we do go ahead (with a cull) and we’d have to withstand that review.
“The main issue is how we ensure that a cull, once started, actually completes; all the evidence we have is that it’s got to run for at least four years if it’s going to have an effect.”
If approved, the government was proposing to license professional marksmen to carry out the cull through controlled shooting.
Any judicial review was likely to be raised on the point of whether such a decision was reasonable, he added.
“We have to accept that the science is disputed. The critical thing is whether we have properly examined every issue. I believe a cull is part of the answer, but we have to tackle this disease from all angles. If we do allow it to go ahead it would probably be from spring next year.
“It can’t happen overnight, and that’s not allowing time for a judicial review. But we think it would still be completed in time.”
Commenting on the BBC poll in which 63% of the general public said they were opposed to a badger cull, Mr Paice admitted the poll was biased, but said a lot more people were in favour than the last time a similar poll was carried out.