A RENEWED bid to cull badgers in north Pembrokeshire was made this week with the launch of a fresh consultation on a government managed cull.

Wales’ rural affairs minister Elin Jones said she is standing by her strategy of culling badgers in a defined area of west Wales over a five year period.

After law lords ruled in July that the Welsh Assembly Government’s original eradication order was unlawful because it applied to the whole of Wales, Elin Jones has redrafted the cull order to apply to a specific area of north Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carm-arthen, a region that has one of the highest bovine TB rates in Europe.

Under the new proposals the minister expects to reduce bovine TB in cattle by about 22%, not the 9% stated in the original order.

“That is a conservative estimate because the additional controls on cattle we have already put in place are designed to result in further reductions,” she said at the consultation launch in Carmarthen.

She said she would not be following England’s lead of licensing farmers to cull badgers themselves because of the work that has already taken place in preparing for a government managed cull.

“Licensing farmers is an option available to me, but we have done significant work already in preparation for a government led cull in north Pembroke-shire and it’s my own view and the advice I have been given that in order for it to be done at its most efficient in this area it needs to be a government managed cull,” she added.

Vaccination she believes is not an option because of the level of infection in endemic areas of Wales and the transmissions of that infection to cattle.

It could be nine months before any culling gets underway because the end of the three month consultation period will coincide with the beginning of the closed period when badgers and their young must not be disturbed.

May 2011 looks the most likely month for the cull to start, when the Welsh Assembly Government elections will take place.

Elin Jones said she hoped the cull would not become a party political issue.

“I have taken this decision not based on party politics, it is an issue of disease eradication that is too important to allow political parties and the elections to get in the way. I hope it doesn’t feature as an election issue, although I am sure some people will use it in this way.”

The consultation period will end on December 17th.