A decision over whether to allow a pilot badger cull to tackle bovine TB will be made within weeks, farm minister Jim Paice has said.
Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Monday (3 October), Mr Paice admitted it had taken longer than he expected to come up with firm cull proposals, but he hoped progress could be made soon.
“It’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be to deal with the minutia to make sure we will be in a position to respond to and rebut a judicial review,” he told party delegates, farmers and industry representatives at an NFU fringe event.
“That’s why it has taken longer than we hoped. It’s getting closer and we will make a decision on the two trial plots in the next few weeks.”
Mr Paice said the DEFRA team was discussing submissions made during the cull consultation and that it would need to talk to the Home Office after home secretary Theresa May was reported to have warned DEFRA minister Caroline Spelman against a cull.
“We are consulting with the Association of Chief Police officers about policing issues and how to minimise disturbances and deal with protestors,” he added. “We need to deal with ACPO before we make a final decision.”
NFU president Peter Kendall thanked Mr Paice for the government’s commitment to tackling TB and its courage to propose a cull, but warned the industry had to play its part in securing a positive outcome in the badger debate.
“You have shown promise but we need to see that potential turned into hard and fast results,” he told Mr Paice.
“But we have got to get on the front foot and explain to the public how the countryside works.
“This government has given us an opportunity to move this battle forward. Explain what it’s doing to your business, keep banging the drum that 8% of cattle are going down to the disease.
“Help the government with this and put pen to paper. Don’t sit on your backside and leave it to someone else.”
The debate about the badger cull in Manchester was disrupted by lone anti-cull protester.
Dressed in a suit and holding up a ‘no cull’ banner, the protester ran to the front of the fringe event as Peter Kendall was discussing bovine TB.
To boos and jeers from the packed audience, the protester chanted: “No more death, no more pain, Peter Kendall is to blame”.
He was quickly escorted out of the room by NFU staff.
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