The NFU has raised hopes that the badger culling programme will be rolled out to other TB hotspots before the end of 2014.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said there was an “ambition” at DEFRA to quickly move forward with the cull programme once the two West Country pilot culls have been completed.

Mr Raymond told Monmouthshire NFU’s county conference on 24 January: “There’s a determination at DEFRA to carry out the two pilot culls this summer, with an ambition to roll it out the following year.”

The union has said in the past that dozens of potential areas had been mapped. And DEFRA’s original target was to issue 10 culling licences a year. A roll-out would need to be completed in 2014, before the next general election, said Mr Raymond, who added he was “fairly confident” the two culls would start this summer.

Addressing the mainly Welsh farming audience, Mr Raymond said if the two culls in England were successful there would be every hope of changing government policy in Wales.

“If the pilot in England is successful there’s a chance we could use that as a lobby argument to convince the Welsh government they’ve got it wrong.”

The Welsh government scrapped a cull in favour of a multi-million-pound vaccination programme in 2012. To date more than 1,400 badgers have been vaccinated in north Pembrokeshire, where it is estimated more than 30% of the population is infected. But Mr Raymond said he was sceptical of its effectiveness.

“With the level of infection there is very little point vaccinating diseased badgers, because the vaccine will only protect against the disease, not clear up the disease.”

Instead Mr Raymond said an effective programme needed to tackle the disease in both species.

“There’s very little point in killing cattle unless you are eradicating the disease in wildlife at the same time,” he added.

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