Badger cull decision expected soon

Government ministers are making final preparations before announcing a badger cull in England, with a decision expected to be unveiled in little more than three weeks.

Two trial badger culls are planned next year in south-west England, where bovine tuberculosis is most acute.

And the NFU remains “hopeful” that a pilot badger cull in England will be given approval by the government next month.

“We’re hopeful that the cull is going to go ahead,” said an NFU spokesman.

“We are anticipating a positive announcement and in preparation for that, we have been preparing areas, mapping and meeting farmers and discussing policy.”

DEFRA said this week it was still considering consultation responses and a final decision had not been made.

A spokesman reiterated the government’s position that DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman was “strongly minded” to allow controlled culling.

“Evidence shows that badger culling could also have an important part to play in getting the disease under control.”

Farm minister Jim Paice said a decision would be made before Christmas, but Farmers Weekly understands that an announcement could be made in the week before Parliament goes into recess on Tuesday 20 December.

Andy Biggs, a member of the Bovine TB Eradication Group for England, said: “The government was minded to go ahead with the cull and as far as we are aware, there are no issues that should change their mind.

“There are ongoing discussions regarding policing, licensing and getting farmers signed up. That’s going according to plan.”

The police officer in charge of domestic political extremism has warned that a badger cull could spark clashes between farmers and animal rights protesters which stretched police forces would struggle to control.

If the cull goes ahead, it could clash with major security challenges, including the London 2012 Olympics.

In an email sent to the government, detective chief superintendent Adrian Tudway warned that police forces could be overwhelmed by protesters.

Writing on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers, DCS Tudway warned against “pitting farmers against activists” which has “the potential to create divisions and therefore conflict within rural communities”.

For more information on the proposed badger cull see our dedicated page