Minister insists no U-turn on Gloucestershire badger cull
CONTROVERSIAL plans to shoot badgers have still not started.
Farmers hoped the cull would begin this week, but continue to wait for the final permission from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Dairy farmer Jan Rowe, director of GlosCon, the company set up to organise the cull locally, warned it must start in the next two weeks or there was a risk it would be delayed until June.
It came as environment minister Owen Paterson insisted to farmers in the county that he was still pushing ahead with the cull after rumours circulated it could be delayed or even scrapped.
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Defra bosses also denied the claims, saying plans had not been changed.
Mr Rowe said the cull needed to start soon if it was to go ahead this year.
"We have not heard anything about starting yet," he added. "It needs to be done by the start of December when the shooting season closes.
"If it is not started in the next couple of weeks, then it will be June before we can do anything. Any delay this year will have a knock-on effect in delaying the roll out of it next year."
The shooting season closes in December because it allows badgers to breed in the winter months.
Farmers insist the cull was necessary to tackle rising rates of TB in cattle, as the badgers could spread the disease to livestock.
Mr Paterson had been invited by friend and fellow MP Laurence Robertson to visit Tewkesbury for a question and answer session with farmers at the Regency Hotel in Staverton.
During his visit, he told farmers that there were no plans to scrap the cull, but did not reveal a date.
Mr Robertson yesterday insisted he was not privy to any dates for the cull.
"Defra wants to make sure the licences have been issued properly," he said.
"The problem of TB has been going on for at least the 15 years I have been an MP and nothing has been done to eradicate the disease. The Government is now determined to do that.
"People need to remember it is a trial and, if it does not work, then we will have to try something else. But we are determined to help the farmers and Owen reiterated he was pushing forward this policy."
A spokesman for Defra said the cull was still going ahead.
"There are still licences being issued and there has been no indication that it is going to be delayed," he said.