Dorset has been named as a reserve area for a badger cull should plans for pilots in Gloucestershire and Somerset fall through.
DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson made the announcement as he addressed the NFU conference in Birmingham (27 February).
Mr Paterson said he was committed to the postponed badger culls going ahead in Gloucestershire and Somerset this summer.
“Today, Natural England and confirmed that these areas have met the final licence conditions,” he said
“We have also agreed with the NFU that an area of Dorset should be prepared as a reserve. This is a sensible contingency in the event that one of the existing areas is unable to proceed.”
Each licence granted by Natural England will run for a four-year term and authorise control operations to be carried out annually between 1 June and 31 January.
Licencees are authorised to reduce badger populations in the two areas by at least 70% and a maximum number of badgers which has been specified to prevent the risk of local extinction.
Work will now also start to process a licence application for Dorset, although Natural England has said culling will only be licensed in this area this year if it is not possible to proceed in either of the other areas.
Mr Paterson’s announcement came as 100 anti-cull protesters gathered outside the conference to express their opposition to plans to tackle bovine TB by culling badgers.
The minister said badger control was only one part of the solution and the industry would not eradicate the disease without continuing to tackle cattle-to-cattle transmission too.
“I fully appreciate that more testing and tighter rules on movements are really tough for livestock farmers. But the long term health of the industry won’t be assured if we allow this terrible disease to continue to spread. “
For more on this topic
News from the NFU conference 2013