The National Trust will allow badgers to be culled on its land, provided tenants can prove they will meet criteria for a successful cull.
The trust, which owns 200,000ha of farmland in England and Wales, had previously refused to commit to allowing culling as a way of controlling bovine tuberculosis on its land.
But the trust said it would not object to culls taking place on its farmland – much of which is in TB hotspot areas – if its tenants could prove all other routes of tackling the disease had been explored.
In a statement the organisation said it had a responsibility as a major landowner to “make a positive contribution” to reducing bovine TB in cattle and wildlife.
It said it accepted there was no point in tacking the disease in cattle without also addressing the disease reservoir in badgers, which included introducing physical barriers and vaccination.
Removing badgers from its farms would also be allowed if a cull was “legal and carried out to the highest possible welfare standards as part of a package of measures that includes more rigorous approaches to reduce cattle-to-cattle transmission,” the statement added.
“We would not object to culls taking place in areas that include our land, where it can be shown all other routes have been explored,” a spokesman for the trust said.
“However, there are relatively few areas in the UK where these criteria can be met and developing an effective vaccination programme for badgers as part of a package of measures is therefore key to reducing Bovine TB in cattle and in wildlife in the long-term.”
The spokesman said the trust was “looking critically” at proposals put forward by DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government last month which set out plans to allow badger cull in certain TB-ridden areas.
“We hope to be able to open a constructive dialogue over how we might contribute to eradication of this disease,” he added,