Environment secretary Owen Paterson confirmed that the pilot badger cull would be implemented in June this year.
It is not yet known whether the pilot locations will be the same as last year’s planned sites, in Gloucester and Somerset, though the National Farmers Union (NFU) confirmed in January that alternative areas were being considered.
NFU president Peter Kendall, interviewed by Farmers Weekly, said: “If something went wrong in one of the original areas we want to ensure that we have got really strong alternative regions ready to go. We don’t know yet whether someone will drop out, so we are making sure that we have got the best possible areas ready to go.”
Mr Paterson told the BBC: “We need to make sure that these two trials are carried out in a professional and scientific manner and if we prove that this works we will continue. The two licences have been issued for two areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset and they still stand.”
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, a badger sett population survey is underway that could mean selective culling starting in early 2014. Bert Houston, Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer, has announced a research programme into badger vaccinations and selective culling as a means to end bovine TB.
In the past 10 years, bovine TB in cattle has cost taxpayers around £500 million, and this is estimated to rise to £1 billion in the next decade. It is believed that culling badgers will help reduce incidents of bovine TB in cattle.