Organisers of the two pilot badger cull areas in the west of England say they are ready to begin culling as soon as the pending judicial review is concluded.
About 95% of farmers, covering more than 70% of the land in the Gloucestershire and Somerset trial areas, had committed to the cull and had submitted their licence applications to Natural England, according to the NFU.
Union deputy president Adam Quinney said: “We hope Natural England will process licences promptly so we can go ahead with the cull this autumn.”
The NFU was also talking to members in TB-clear areas to identify how to keep those regions protected, Mr Quinney said, during a visit to the Cornwall Show.
Measures could include introducing more controls for animals like alpacas, which were susceptible to TB, but were not currently required to test for the disease or record movements.
“We need to look at the whole package to make the system fairer, allowing trade to carry on more safely,” he added.
But shadow farm minister Huw Irranca-Davies, who was also visiting the show, said a cull was not the answer to TB. “I genuinely do not think culling is a long-term solution. We need to revisit the 1970’s view of eradicating TB.
“We have to be realistic that there is no longer any question of eradicating it – it is too widespread now. We need to redouble our efforts on badger and cattle vaccination.”
Cornwall MP George Eustice agreed that development and licensing of a cattle vaccine was essential. Mr Eustice, the Tory MP for Redruth and Camborne, said: “It would be unacceptable to fast-track the vaccine if the EU dragged its feet over approving it. However, there is no example, anywhere in the world, of TB being tackled without addressing the wildlife population.”
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