In October, I announced that the two badger control pilots that had been due to go ahead last autumn were being postponed at the National Farmers Union’s request. These pilots are part of the Government’s science-led and carefully managed policy to allow controlled culling of badgers, carried out by groups of farmers and landowners, to tackle TB in cattle. The policy is being piloted in two areas to test our assumptions about the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of controlled shooting.
Prior to the decision to postpone the pilots, licences were issued to the companies carrying out the culls in the two pilot areas in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset. Today, Natural England has formally written to the two companies confirming the final conditions in these licences have been met, meaning that culling can go ahead there later this year. This demonstrates the commitment of all organisations involved to the successful delivery of the pilots in these two areas.
At the same time, an area in Dorset will be prepared as a reserve. This is a sensible contingency in the event that, for any reason, one of the existing licensed areas is unable to proceed.
I know that there is great strength of feeling on badger culling, but I also know that we need to take action now before the situation deteriorates even further. We need to tackle all transmission routes of TB using all the available tools.