Wales is pressing ahead with a pilot cull of badger in an area with over 300 cattle herds.

Rural affairs minister Elin Jones has (9 March) authorised the destruction of badgers in an area of west Wales known as the Intensive Action Area. 

She admitted the decision would not be popular with everyone but believed it was the right one.

“I am aware that this decision will cause some people genuine concern, but it is a decision I have taken based on full consideration of the matter,’’ she said.

The decision to lay the Badger (Control Area) (Wales) Order 2011 follows a three-month consultation into the proposals.

“After full consideration of the evidence presented to me, including consideration of the responses to the recent Consultation on Badger Control in the Intensive Action Area, I have reached the decision to proceed with legislation which would enable a government led cull of badgers in the Intensive Action Area,” she said.

The assembly government had been forced to abandon an earlier planned cull after losing a legal challenge. The appeal court had ruled the government was wrong to make an order for the whole of Wales rather than the pilot cull area it had consulted on.

The new plan is said not to differ in substance from the earlier one but the legislation clearly defines the area involved. It is thought that around 1500 badgers could be culled.

The area, which includes north Pembrokeshire and parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, has 321 herds. This represents 2.5% of cattle herds in Wales but 14.6% of the total compensation bill for TB slaughter.

Farm leaders have welcomed the announcement as a vital step forward.

But the Badger Trust said it had expected the Assembly government to revive its badger cull strategy so this week’s announcement had not surprised the charity.

Chairman David Williams said the Trust would be seeking legal advice before deciding whether to pursue further court action.

“We always knew the assembly government would try this again because there are people there who ignore all the facts and figures that are presented to them,” he said.