The Government is determined to carry out the pilot culls of badgers in the two South West TB hotspot areas next summer – provided the Coalition stays intact.
That was the message delivered to farmers by NFU president Peter Kendall. En-vironment Secretary Owen Paterson is absolutely determined the six-week pilots, in West Somerset and the Tewkesbury area would take place, said Mr Kendall, who met Mr Paterson last week.
He said: "There's a worry about farmers seeing the pilot schemes being called off this autumn as a bad signal, but Mr Paterson is fully committed to seeing this delivered. It would have been wrong to have started the culls when they could not have been concluded properly and there were a whole host of issues involved."
The Government had been keen to go ahead, but the NFU was right to have insisted on postponing the pilots, he stressed.
Mr Kendall told the Cornwall NFU branch annual open conference in Wadebridge that not a single farmer had dropped out in the cull areas.
"I want to ensure they do go ahead, at the best time for them and that we are best prepared," he stressed. "It must be effective and humane."
This time it was vital the number of badgers involved was properly assessed.
"We don't want to find there are massive numbers we didn't expect, at the last minute," he added.
The change of government ministers had been untimely, with Caroline Spelman, Jim Paice and Lord John Taylor all going; it felt as though there had been a change of government.
"Nine months is a long time in government – and the Coalition could fall apart – who knows?" he said. "But at the moment the administration is still committed to the culls."
On the issue of vaccines for badgers and cattle, Mr Kendall said the NFU had been wrong-footed by campaigner and rock guitarist Brian May's well-publicised claims that there was a vaccine. But the vaccine was only 60 per cent effective, and would not be allowed by the EU, with France, Spain and Ireland all having got rid of TB without the use of a vaccine.
"Brian May is some sort of icon from the past, and calls himself a doctor. Actually he's an astrophysicist – and you don't find many badgers in outer space," he added.
He hoped government scientists would be more vocal in support of the cull.
Mr Kendall also stressed that rogue dairies and processors who were not complying with the terms of the new Dairy Code must be brought to heel.
He told the same meeting: "Too many companies are still not accepting farmers' notices, allowing them to go off and get a better price for their milk."
That was why the protest group Farmers For Action was operating last week.