The NFU has reaffirmed its commitment to a badger cull next year, insisting that plan has been “postponed and not cancelled”.
“The resolve is still there, DEFRA is committed and we are working closely with the farmers – it’s still all systems go,” said a spokesman for the farming union.
“We must emphasise that the cull has been postponed and not cancelled. The culling licences are in place and the plan is to start next June.”
Farming leaders are due to hold a series of meetings with groups involved in the planning of the cull over the next few weeks to discuss the way forward.
Among the topics of discussion will be the revised badger population numbers from the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), which found badgers numbers were double the previous estimates in the two pilot culling areas of west Gloucestershire and west Somerset.
Just days before culling was set to begin last month, FERA estimated that much higher numbers of badgers had to be shot to ensure that the trial could reach its target of culling 70% of badgers within the cull zones to make the trial successful.
As a result, the cull was called off at the 11th hour after the survey revealed estimated badger populations of 4,300 in west Somerset and 3,600 in west Gloucestershire – double the previous data suggested.
“In some cases, the survey established that there will be as many as 81 badgers in a 100ha area,” said the NFU spokesman.
“Whereas for the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), the density of badgers was varied and averaged around three badgers a sq km.
“We have got to satisfy ourselves that these FERA numbers are correct.”
The NFU’s decision to ask DEFRA to delay the cull until next year had been vindicated as the tougher targets meant farmers could not be confident of culling enough badgers to make the trial a success, the spokesman added.
The recent bad weather, which means badgers are less active outside the sett and the lateness of the season to begin culling were also decisive factors in delaying the cull.
“The decision to delay was the right one. If we are going to do this, we are going to do it right,” said the spokesman.
“There’s no point going ahead with it and getting it wrong. We couldn’t afford to take that risk.
“We want to do the cull for right reasons and make sure that we get it right. This is not just about culling badgers.
“We want to show that the policy does work and we can do it properly.”
Meanwhile, a BBC Panorama documentary on the badger cull is due to be aired next Monday (12 November). The programme is expected to contain interviews with organisations in favour and against the cull.Philip Case on G+