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DEFRA delays decision on English badger cull

21 July 2011

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman has said she is “strongly minded” to allow controlled culling of badgers by farmers and landowners in England.

However, she said there would be a further consultation on the plans before any final decision was taken.

“There is great strength of feeling on this issue, which is why I have carefully considered the scientific evidence and the large number of responses to the public consultation,” Spelman said.

“I know that a large section of the public is opposed to culling, and that many people are particularly concerned about whether it will actually be effective in reducing TB in cattle and about whether it will be humane.

“I wish there was some other practical way of dealing with this, but we can’t escape the fact that the evidence supports the case for a controlled reduction of the badger population in areas worst affected by bovine TB.”

Spelman said badger control licences would be issued by Natural England under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 to enable farmers and landowners to reduce badger populations at their own expense.

“The draft guidance to Natural England sets out strict criteria that applicants for a licence to cull badgers would have to meet to ensure that any culling is carried out safely, effectively and humanely,” Spelman said.

“Initially in the first year, the culling method would be piloted in two areas, to confirm the effectiveness and humaneness of controlled shooting, overseen by an independent panel of scientific experts. If this is found to be effective, then and only then would this policy be rolled out more widely.”

Gwendolen Morgan, solicitor in the public law team at Bindman & Partners, acts for the Badger Trust.

She said the consultation would close at the end of September, and only then would a final decision would be made.

“This is just a ‘minded to’ decision,” Morgan said. “The government accepts that there are serious practical difficulties which could hamper the proposed cull.

“Our clients will provide a considered response to the consultation paper in September.”

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