IN A move that is bound to spark controversy, Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, yesterday announced plans to cull badgers in an attempt to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Spelman said that the controlled culling would take place in two different disease hot spots in England where a number of cattle herds have had to be culled after becoming infected with TB.
The exact cull locations will be decided by farmer and landowner organisations which will also carry out the culling operation.
But prior to that, the final consultation over the next nine weeks will consider whether shooting badgers is an effective and humane method of controlling badgers.
This final consultation was necessary as there had been changes to the original badger control proposal.
Speaking on the cull, Spelman outlined the strategy: "I am strongly minded to allow controlled culling carried out by groups of farmers and landowners as part of a science led and carefully managed policy of badger control."
If the controlled culling in the two areas was successful, she said the policy would be rolled out to other areas were bovine TB is endemic.
The move was widely welcomed by farmers and landowners who believe badgers help transmit the disease.
The president of the British Veterinary Association, Harvey Locke, admitted the culling was a very emotive and difficult decision but the BVA believed the science supported the policy in dealing with this "devastating disease".
NFU President Peter Kendall also recognised the difficulty in the decision but said: "This has never been about eradicating badgers; this is about eradicating disease. It is a very tough decision in the face of not inconsiderable opposition."