Gloucestershire and Somerset badger cull delayed until Summer
The badger cull has been delayed until next Summer in a dramatic u-turn by the government.
The announcement was made minutes ago in the House of Commons by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
He said both pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset would be pushed back to next year as delays meant the "optimal time" for them had now passed.
He said his decision was influenced by a letter from the NFU requesting the postponement.
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It said farmers were not confident they could carry out the cull given the high number of badgers and lateness of the season.
Mr Paterson said: "It would be wrong to go ahead if those on the ground can't be confident of removing at least 70 per cent of the population."
However he emphasised that there had been 'no change' to government policy on the issue and the cull would go ahead.
He added:"We are committed to a wider TB plan and moving towards a TB free England."
The announcement has been welcomed by anti-cull campaigners.
The RSPCA welcomed the delay but said it must be more than a temporary reprieve.
The animal welfare charity's chief executive Gavin Grant said: "This is good news for badgers, cows, dairy farmers and animal-lovers alike.
"Hopefully, it marks the beginning of the end for these unscientific, foolish and cruel plans to cull badgers.
"We welcome this postponement, but this must not be a temporary reprieve, but must mark an end to all cull plans."
David Drew, Labour parliamentary candidate for Stroud, said it was 'good news' and the repercussions were likely to be discussed at a meeting of the Gloucestershire Badger Group this Saturday from 10am in Stroud Town Hall.
Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) said it welcomes 'wholeheartedly' the announcement by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson MP this lunchtime, that the proposed cull on badgers will be delayed.
The voluntary group was formed 10 weeks ago as a result of mounting concern amongst people in the county that potentially thousands of badgers were to be shot at night this winter.
The group has sought to inform the public and key decision makers of the facts and issues involved.
Liz Gaffer a spokesperson for GABS said: “We are so, so pleased to hear this news for now. We hope the government will not just delay, but will decide not to pursue a cull as the evidence is clear that culling badgers is not the most effective, efficient or humane way of reducing bovine TB.
"People in Gloucestershire have voiced their concern over the rationale behind it, and the safety issues involved. We believe the government may have taken this on board and we will continue to campaign for a vaccination programme of cattle and badgers that we believe will really support farmers who are faced with this awful disease”.