A PUBLIC meeting to discuss the controversial badger cull with a panel of expert speakers is being held this month.

The meeting has been arranged as the Welsh Assembly Government begins its survey of badger setts in the cull area of north Pembrokeshire and parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. The cull itself is scheduled to start in “late spring”.

Campaign group Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, which is organising a number of meetings, says it is receiving more calls and emails every day from landowners who are concerned about the cull, which WAG maintains will help control the spread of bovine TB.

Landowners in the target area have now received a letter from the Government’s animal health department, explaining the cull procedure. Those with cattle are also having visits from their vets to discuss best practice and biosecurity.

Celia Thomas, of PAC, said: “Cull area residents may want to discuss this with someone other than the Government, especially if they think that killing badgers is an unnecessary element of the bovine TB eradication programme. We believe the futility of a cull has never been clearer - the latest unreleased figures suggest bTB is already reducing with increased testing and better breakdown handling.

“Better practice from farmers, limits on cattle movements and more frequent and accurate tests will reduce bTB without the need for wildlife extermination.”

The Welsh Assembly Government says that the cull is an essential part of the programme to deal with bTB.

“Cattle and badgers are the main sources of bovine TB in the UK. Across Wales, we are tackling the disease in cattle in order to limit and reduce the spread of infection. But we need a different approach in areas where the disease is a really serious problem and tackle the wildlife source of infection as well,” says WAG in a statement.

It adds: “While there are mixed views about the benefits of culling badgers in controlling the spread of TB, evidence from a number of studies shows that culling badgers can reduce TB in cattle.”

The public meeting is on Monday, February 15, at 7.15pm at Newport Memorial Hall. Speakers will include Peter Black and Sarah Kessel, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts of South and West Wales.

*A PAC meeting for people for people who want to help with the group’s work is being held on Sunday, February 7, at the Welsh Wildlife Centre, at 2.30pm.