The UK government has pushed back to next year a controversial cull of badgers that has provoked heated debate among researchers and the public.
The cull, part of efforts to control bovine tuberculosis (bTB), which badgers can transmit to cattle, was scheduled to start imminently (see ‘Badger battle erupts in England’). But environment secretary Owen Paterson announced today that no badgers (Meles meles) would be shot until next summer.
Paterson said that after more badgers than expected were found in the two initial culling areas, it was doubtful that enough animals could be culled this year. A 70% reduction in numbers is believed by some researchers to be necessary to reduce bTB, he said.
There was, said Paterson, “no change to government policy”. The opposition Labour party seized on today’s announcement as a ‘U-turn’.