No guarantees on badger cull, Paice warns

There are no guarantees for a badger cull to tackle bovine TB, government ministers have warned farmers.

Both Defra minister Jim Paice and secretary of state Caroline Spelman refused to set a deadline for a decision while speaking at the NFU annual conference in Birmingham this week, with Paice warning there were still some serious hurdles to overcome.

Both Paice and Spelman said the delay in announcing a decision on any badger cull was to ensure all the details were in order to resist any legal challenges.

Spelman said: “We have to be really careful on bovine TB. What happened in Wales is a warning: if we get a tiny bit of the process wrong, we’re in hiatus and may have to go back to the drawing board.”

Paice said there were a number of issues to be resolved, such as looking at the roll of vaccination to create barriers around cull areas to avoid simply shifting the problem elsewhere. “It raises questions on how tough we want to be.”

He said other concerns included security issues for farmers, those carrying out the cull, and Defra staff. “I’m determined to do everything I can to find a solution to these problems, but if we can’t we may not go ahead with the cull. There are some tough issues to crack.”

He said they had to get it right first time: “There won’t be a second opportunity on this, so a short delay is necessary to ensure we get it right and resist the inevitable judicial review.”