Cornwall could be selected for the two pilot badger culls now scheduled to commence next summer, it has emerged.
Pilot culls due to take place in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset this autumn were postponed in October, at the request of the NFU,
An eleventh-hour revision of badger numbers in the two areas made it virtually impossible for the policy to go ahead with any certainty of success.
Defra Minister Owen Paterson has stressed his ‘absolute commitment’ to going ahead with two pilot culls next summer but said it was up to the NFU to decide which areas are selected.
Farmers who are for the culls praised Paterson’s for standing by the controversial policy, which has incensed Green MPs and mainly urban Labour MPs.
Cull opponents won a Commons debate 147 votes to 28, but the victory has no legal weight.
The farming minister got fed up toward the end of it and admitted to the Telegraph he muttered ‘I can’t stand any more of this’ as he walked out.
NFU president Peter Kendall has confirmed that other areas beyond the two selected last year will be considered for the fresh cull in 2013.
He said: “I think we should be having an urgent stock take about whether these are the best two areas or whether there are better areas out there to act as pilots going forward.”
“These pilots are going to decide the fate of the policy.
“So I want to make sure, especially with the changing badger numbers, that we have the best areas that can work most effectively.”
The West Gloucestershire and West Somerset areas were selected as the pilot cull areas by Ministers in January from a shortlist submitted by the NFU and National Beef Association.
Mr Kendall pointed out that Defra received a number of submissions from areas putting themselves forward as pilot cull areas then and said this was likely to be the case again next year.
The two pilot areas were issued with provisional licences by Natural England this autumn, which authorised ‘control operations’ over areas of around 300sq.km over four year terms.
The challenge is to reduce badger numbers by a minimum of 70 per cent.
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