Plans for badger cull approved

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The Independent Online

Plans for a badger cull in West Wales as part of a campaign to wipe out bovine tuberculosis (TB) were approved today.

Badgers will be trapped and shot in a pilot area of around 180 square miles in north Pembrokeshire and neighbouring parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

Officials said they intended to reduce the badger population "as far as we can" during limited culls over five years.

Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said she was satisfied the plans met relevant environmental legislation conditions after an ecological study to asses the cull's impact.

It will take place in a bovine TB endemic area where 42 per cent of cattle owners have had at least one case of the disease in their herds since 2003.

The cull will be accompanied by stricter control measures, including more testing for farmers who frequently move cattle in and out of the zone.

"We know that cattle and badgers are the main sources of the disease and that, if we want to achieve our aim of eradicating bovine TB, we have to tackle the disease in both species," the minister said.

"The approach we will be taking in the pilot area, carrying out a badger cull alongside strict cattle controls, has not been tried before in the UK.

"However, it is proving successful in countries like New Zealand, where wild possums and cattle are the main sources of infection."

She said it was "not appropriate" to publish a map of the pilot area, which takes in some 1,500 landowners and 350 cattle farmers. It is contained within the natural boundaries of the sea, rivers and the Preseli Hills.

Culling will not take place during the closed breeding season, expected to end in April or May.

The cost over five years is estimated at around £9 million. Contracts will go out to tender, starting with work to identify badger setts.

Asked about an application for a judicial review by the Badger Trust, which the Welsh Assembly Government is opposing, Ms Jones said: "At the moment, at this point in time, we have the legal powers to undertake the work and we intend to undertake this work. The judicial review process will take its course."

Welsh farmers affected by TB were paid £24 million in compensation last year, up from £1 million in 2000. In 2008, 12,000 cattle were slaughtered because of TB, compared to 700 in 1997.