THE decision to give the go-ahead to a badger cull in north Pembrokeshire has received support from farmers, but has been met with strong opposition from conservationists.

The pilot cull will be located mainly in north Pembrokeshire, but will also include small areas of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

The rural affairs minister, Elin Jones, said the cull would operate alongside stricter cattle measures as part of the Welsh Assembly’s TB eradication programme.

Mrs Jones said: “We know that cattle and badgers are the main sources of the disease and that, if we want to achieve our aim of eradicating Bovine TB, we have to tackle the disease in both species.”

The farming unions welcomed the announcement.

FUW spokesman Brian Walters, an organic dairy farmer, said: “The bottom line is that badgers and cattle share the same fields, yet we have been culling tens of thousands of cattle while ignoring the wildlife reservoir.

“It is also completely wrong to talk about the eradication of badgers — the aim is one that should be supported by all parties, namely to have healthy badgers and healthy cattle living alongside each other.”

Dai Davies, outgoing NFU Cymru president, who has a dairy farm in Carmarthenshire, said: “Stringent measures have already been implemented to deal with the problem in cattle; extensive work has been undertaken by the TB Programme Board; environmental and ecological impact assessments have been done, expert scientific advice has been taken in determining the pilot area and we are satisfied that the approach is based on sound science with every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ now crossed.”

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) owns and manages seven nature reserves within the intensive action pilot area, which will be directly affected by the cull.

Dr Lizzie Wilberforce, conservation manager at WTSWW, said: “The Wildlife Trusts believe that there should be a programme of vaccination of badgers, more effective testing of cattle, and greater biosecurity on farms. A combination of these three things is the answer — not culling.”

Celia Thomas, a spokesman for Pembrokeshire Against the Cull (PAC), said: “We are saddened that local landowners who cherish their wildlife are now forced into opposing their own government to protect it.”