Government to rule out badger cull

The government has decided against a widespread cull of badgers to control TB in cattle, according to reports leaked to the BBC.

It is believed that Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn was delaying an announcement regarding the government's decision until after the Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh.

Farming groups, who have long campaigned for a cull as a way to control disease in their cattle herds, are likely to be outraged by the government's decision.

The NFU claims that a cull is absolutely necessary to control TB in cattle, but the Badger Trust insists there is not enough scientific evidence to justify a widespread cull. Last year, former chief scientific adviser Sir David King recommended that a cull could be an effective measure, but the government is concerned that such action would provoke public outrage.

A spokesperson for the NFU said: "Defra is not currently confirming the decision, but in light of the BBC reports this is obviously disastrous news for the families and farms devastated by TB.

"We will be taking immediate legal advice on challenging the decision and have instructed leading QC Richard Lissack. With 28,000 animals culled last year, this is a very serious threat to the livestock industry in this country."

The government is expected to formally announce its decision on Monday in its response to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which had advocated a trial cull of badgers in affected areas of Devon and Cornwall.

If the government does say no to a cull, a large contingency of landowners are expected to go to the High Court to seek a judicial review of the decision.