A controversial badger cull pilot in West Somerset will go ahead this summer, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has confirmed today.
The proposed cull is one of two that were originally due to take place last autumn, but were postponed in October due to a number of issues including bad weather, legal problems and new figures of badger numbers in the proposed cull zones.
Speaking at the National Farmers Union's annual conference today, Mr Paterson said authorisation letters have been issued by Natural England confirming the culls can go ahead this summer.
The Environment Secretary added that he is determined "there are no further delays this year" in carrying out the culls, planned for West Somerset and West Gloucestershire.
Mr Paterson said: “Bovine TB is spreading at an alarming rate and causing real devastation to our beef and dairy industry.
"The authorisation letters issued today confirming culling can proceed this summer in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset is an important step towards taking the action we need to tackle the spread of this disease in wildlife.
“I am determined that there are no further delays this year. That is why we have taken the sensible step with the farming industry to elect a reserve area that can be called upon should anything happen to prevent culling in Somerset or Gloucestershire.
“These pilot culls are just one part of our approach to control and eradicate this dreadful disease. We are using everything at our disposal to get to grips with TB including new tougher controls on moving cattle, increased herd testing and working to get effective vaccines ready as soon as possible.”