THE GOVERNMENT and the National Farmers Union (NFU) have announced that planned badger culls will be postponed until next year.
The NFU wrote to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to request that the pilot badger culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire now go ahead in 2013.
The request follows new survey results which revealed higher than anticipated badger numbers in the two pilot areas.
Following a thorough assessment of their current capability, the NFU this morning informed Defra that in light of these new figures they could not be confident of removing the required minimum 70% of the badgers in the two pilot areas this autumn.
Defra has agreed to postpone the pilot culls until summer 2013 to allow farmers to continue their preparations and have the best possible chance of carrying out the cull effectively.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said it would be wrong to go ahead in light of the NFUs concerns.
Campaigners are hoping that this signifies an end to all plans to include badger culling in any attempt to control the spread of TB.
However, there was no sign of a policy u-turn, with Paterson adamant that the controversial culls will proceed next year.
In the next few months, we will ensure that the pilot culls can be implemented effectively, in the best possible conditions, with the right resources. Having looked at all the evidence over many years, I am utterly convinced that badger control is the right thing to do.
NFU president Peter Kendall said there were a number of factors behind his decision, not least the appalling weather, delays because of the Olympics and Paralympics, and the legal challenges from those against the policy.
He added: For those that have suggested that this cull is irresponsible, I think todays decision shows that this is simply not the case. Postponement is the most responsible thing to do. We have said all along that this has never been about killing badgers; this has always been about eradicating disease. It has been about the battle to get on top of the TB on our farms that strikes at the very heart of our beef and dairy herds.
On Thursday, 25th October, there will be a parliamentary debate on the issue.