Rescheduling of badger cull denied by Whitehall officials
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Friday 19 October 2012
Speculation was intensifying last night that the planned badger cull might be postponed by up to a year.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said yesterday the speculation was "without foundation" and insisted the Government was still committed to culling badgers to stop bovine tuberculosis, which badgers can carry, spreading in cattle. Yet rumours persisted in Westminster and Whitehall of a possible rescheduling of the operation to shoot thousands of badgers in pilot areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset, which is proving deeply unpopular with the public and increasingly contentious within the scientific community.
It is thought that farmers in the two pilot areas, who are organising the cull at their own expense with teams of marksmen, may be having difficulty meeting the terms of the two culling licences provisionally issued by the Government's wildlife watchdog, Natural England.
Farmers must pay a bond as insurance in case they pull out mid-cull and the Government has to step in to finish the job. Estimates indicate there are far more badgers in the pilot areas than was thought, and the shooters are to be paid a bounty for every badger they kill – making the operation much more costly.
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