Dorset is likely to be first in the queue if the pilot badger culls are rolled out next year – with Cornwall potentially next in line, according to DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson

The minister reaffirmed that the pilot culls are set to remain in Gloucestershire and Somerset as planned, despite having Dorset as a back-up area. “I’m confident the cull will go ahead in Somerset and Gloucestershire,” he said at this week’s Royal Cornwall Show. “But I’m very pleased with the way Dorset farmers reacted, going to all the trouble of preparing, without any certainty of getting it this year.

“They can move pretty quickly, and I’m confident they will be first in the queue next year,” he added. Mr Paterson also made a direct appeal to farmers in Cornwall to prepare for a cull in 2014. “I will be the person who makes the decision where the next 10 areas are. If these pilots go okay, I very much hope to be back down here next year, and to be able to say you can go ahead.”

Mr Paterson refused to announce when the pilot trials would begin, saying that would be up to the individuals on the ground. “We do expect some lawful protests against the cull, but what I will not tolerate is illegal obstruction of the policy of a democratically elected government, one that was soundly endorsed by two resounding majorities in parliament on Wednesday,” he said.

“We are absolutely convinced that we are doing the right thing – this is vital for wildlife, vital for our farming industry and vital for the health of the countryside.”

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