New badger cull board to decide pilot areas
A NEW partnership board comprising Defra, Natural England, the NFU and the police will decide where the planned pilot badger culls take place this year.
A decision is expected to be made in the early part of this year to give the two areas, and a possible reserve, sufficient time to prepare.
NFU president Peter Kendall revealed before Christmas that other areas will be considered alongside West Gloucestershire and West Somerset, which were designated for pilot culls last year. Even though the pilots were postponed in the autumn, these two areas’ provisional licences remain valid.
However, concerns over the Gloucestershire area in particular, including the level of participation and issues with policing, have prompted the NFU to look for a reserve area. A number of groups of farmers in TB hotspot areas, including in the South West and the Midlands, have put themselves forward as possible alternatives.
Defra Secretary Owen Paterson told the Oxford Farming Conference last week that the pilots ‘will go ahead this summer’ and announced the ‘project board’ to oversee their delivery. “We are all committed to working together in partnership to ensure that the culls go ahead and to establishing a sustainable model for future deployment,” he said.
While the NFU will have the biggest say in which two areas plus a possible reserve go forward, the new board will formally make the recommendations to Ministers.
The pilot culls could start as soon as June 1, although the need to ensure the chosen areas have time to prepare and are culling at the most appropriate time of year mean the policy could start later in the summer or even early autumn.
Mr Kendall insisted the debate over the location of the pilots was ‘absolutely not’ a sign that it could be a struggle to get two areas up and running this year.
“If we had gone ahead with just two areas and got to June 1and something unexpected had happened, in Gloucestershire for example, that would have been negligent,” he said.
“It is about getting the right areas at the right time. The timing is not going to be dictated by the political calendar, it has got to be dictated by the right time for the area concerned.”
Farming Minister David Heath said in a television interview last week that Defra will ‘wait to hear from the NFU and the farmers involved as to whether they want to stick to their original plans or want to change them – that’s their decision’.