National Trust members have voted down a motion to ban the culling of badgers on its land.
Members had put forward a resolution calling for the trust to introduce an immediate and widespread badger vaccination programme on its land to tackle bovine TB.
The motion was suggested by a group of members to prevent the charity’s land from being involved in any future badger cull.
It was aimed at fending off the government’s anticipated widespread cull in England next year, should the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire prove successful.
The results of the members’ vote, taken at its annual meeting in Cardiff on Saturday (26 October), were: badger vaccination – 7,808 for the resolution, 8,694 against.
However, charity trustees stressed that the vote did not mean that the trust was in favour of culling badgers.
Patrick Begg, rural enterprise director at the National Trust, said: “We advocate an evidence-based approach to tackling bovine TB which covers an integrated package of measures, including those to improve biosecurity and prevent cattle-to-cattle transmission.
“This is an emotive issue on all sides of the debate. We are in favour of doing what works to solve the problem that is affecting so many of our tenants and farmers across the country.
“Vaccination is our long-term preference, both for badgers and cattle, but our badger vaccination trial at Killerton in Devon is only half way through. It may prove costly and hard to administer in practice.”
Last week, the National Trust sought assurances from the government that it remained committed to upholding high standards of scientific rigour in the conduct and analysis of the pilots after the criteria around the trials changed since the summer.
Natural England has granted the companies carrying out the culling in Somerset and Gloucestershire extensions to their culling licences after a six-week cull proved too short to enable marksmen to remove enough badgers in each area to meet minimum targets of a 70% kill.
The National Trust’s farmed estate spans an estimated 200,000ha of farmland across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.