The prospect of a badger cull to combat the soaring epidemic of tuberculosis in cattle has diminished after MPs recommended any future slaughter should be strictly limited.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee said yesterday that mass eradication should not form the cornerstone of government policy against the disease, which farmers claim is spread by badgers. Last year, 28,000 infected cattle had to be put down, while the disease has cost the taxpayer £300m.
MPs said it was unlikely farmers would be compensated for culling, which they concluded was often ineffective if carried out on a "patchy, disorganised or short-term" basis. The committee recommended an improved testing regime and better biosecurity on farms. Farmers' leaders have campaigned vehemently for a cull. But animal welfare groups welcomed yesterday's findings. Trevor Lawson, of the Badger Trust, said the policy was now "off the agenda".
The Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, who was heckled at a meeting of the National Farmers' Union last week, will now have to decide whether or not to give the go-ahead to a proposed cull.