Decision day nears for badger cull

The government is days away from announcing whether it will press ahead with a badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis in cattle.

DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman is believed to have recommended a cull in TB hotspot areas. But she must win the backing of Cabinet colleagues for the policy. An announcement is expected before Parliament rises on 19 July.

The news comes as a second case of bovine TB was confirmed in Cumbria.

The incident – on a farm near Penrith – is next to the initial outbreak in the county, which was confirmed more than two months ago.

Vets are undertaking further testing and tracing work to determine if there are links between the cases identified at the two farms. But it is likely to be several weeks before a result is known.

NFU Cumbria county chairman Robert Craig said the latest confirmed case demonstrated the need for farmers to remain vigilant. “We must do all that we can to stop the disease becoming established in the county.”

Meanwhile, frustration is growing at the Welsh Assembly Government’s decision to halt a planned cull of badgers in West Wales. The heads of three regional bovine TB eradication boards in Wales have withdrawn their support in protest at the decision.

John Owen, Peredur Hughes and Robert Stevenson said they felt “entirely bypassed and badly misled” by the government’s decision to review the science behind the TB eradication strategy rather than implement a cull.

A Welsh Government spokesperson described the move as “regrettable”.