Badger cull in Pembrokeshire 'on hold' for appeal
A cull on badgers in Pembrokeshire will not begin before the results of an appeal, the Welsh rural affairs minister has announced.
The decision was made after the Badger Trust was told it could appeal against the outcome of a judicial review that backed the assembly government's plans.
Elin Jones had initially said work on the cull to try to stop TB being spread to cattle, would continue until a judge said otherwise.
The appeal is due on 30 June.
The trust disputes a cull, which is being piloted in an area of Pembrokeshire, would make any difference to the spread of bovine TB.
At least 1,500 badgers could be killed during the five-year programme.
The Badger Trust, a charity which campaigns for the conservation and protection of badgers, had asked for the right to appeal against the outcome of a judicial review held in April, which upheld the assembly government's right to mount the cull.
It argued that the assembly government and the minister had not shown that a cull would "eliminate or substantially reduce" the rate of TB infection, as the law meant it had to, and that ministers had a duty to weigh the harm to the badger population against the possible benefits to farmers, but had not done so.
Mr Justice Elias agreed that these two points were "arguable" and granted the trust leave to appeal.
On Wednesday, Ms Jones said she was determined to continue with the cull, saying the assembly government had been advised that the appeal was not to be listed for hearing until between November and February.
But she has now announced that the cull will be delayed after finding out on Wednesday afternoon that the Court of Appeal had agreed to bring forward the hearing to 30 June.
She said: "In light of the fact that the hearing will now be held very quickly, I can commit to a delay in removing badgers until the judgement is delivered.
"I do so in anticipation of an early and positive judgement for the Welsh Assembly Government."
She added: "We will continue with our scientific approach that underpins our eradication programme.
"We will proceed with the preparatory work under the legal powers available to the Welsh Assembly Government.
"In addition, farmers in the area are already subject to additional and strict cattle control measures, and we do not intend to suspend those controls."
Stephen James, deputy president of NFU Cymru said he believed the Badger Trust was "trying to employ delaying tactics" over the cull.
He added: "I am confident in my own mind at appeal the High Court judgement will be upheld and that the Welsh Assembly Government will be able to proceed with the badger cull."
The UK government is likely to approve "targeted" badger culls in England in the next few years.