Farmers in the West Country whose land is scheduled to be used for bovine TB badger culls have been thrown a financial lifeline by their professional organisation.
If it is found that shooting free-running badgers is an unsuitable way to cull them and that cage-trapping them would be better, the extra cost involved will be met by the National Farmers’ Union.
Its president, Peter Kendall, said the union would stand the extra cost for members, which he thought could be doubled if cage-trapping was involved.
Under existing, controversial, plans, two trial culls will take place in the autumn in the South West and last for six weeks. Badgers will be shot by marksmen from licensed farmer groups, as part of the campaign to stamp out bovine tuberculosis.
The pilot areas are in West Somerset and around the Tewkesbury area of Gloucestershire and a total of 450 farmers are involved.
The licensed groups will be footing the bill for the culls, but farmers have been worried that costs will increase if other forms of the culling process are instigated instead of free-running shooting.
That would come about after a post-pilot culls meeting of an expert panel, whose members might decide there were better, safer and more humane methods of carrying out the process.
Mr Kendall was not prepared to say how much the NFU would be likely to pay towards trapping – and he was adamant that he thought the shooting of free-running badgers would be the right way to carry out the trial culls.