Badger culls will not go ahead in England after Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn has decided against using a widespread badger cull to control the spread of TB in cattle.
Mr Benn has delayed making the decision for two weeks, and reports say that this is because he wanted to avoid the decision being known during the Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, as he feared backlash from farmers and landowners.
Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: ‘This is devastating for the farming families whose lives and businesses are being ruined by TB in cattle.
‘It is also disastrous for UK farming, as we lost 28,000 cattle last year and 13,500 in the first four months of this year, which has the potential to reach a total of 40,000 by the end of the year.
‘It is worth noting,’ continued Mr Kendall, ‘that Sir David King, the former Government chief scientist said that his was dismayed by the decision.’
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Mr Benn has not announced his decision on the badger cull yet in a formal capacity, but the decision was leaked to the BBC.
Mr Benn’s spokesman from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: ‘We never comment on leaked reports. As we have said, Hillary Benn is to make an announcement shortly.’
Government trials, which lasted 10 years, proved a link between badgers and the spread of TB to cattle, but concluded that culling could only work over a period of at least four years, covering areas of land of more than 300 square kilometres.
The Badger Trust has challenged the ‘morality’ of the propsed cull.
The Welsh Assembly is planning to go ahead with a cull and, if Hillary Benn changes his mind and allows a widespread badger cull to go ahead in England, animal rights groups have said they may take legal action to stop the cull.