Pembrokeshire badger cull order may be amended
A controversial order for a badger cull is expected to be amended following an appeal hearing last week.
The Badger Trust questioned why the order related to the whole of Wales, rather than just the cull pilot area in part of south-west Wales.
Rural affairs minister Elin Jones said the all-Wales clause was only included in case a cull or vaccination was needed elsewhere in future.
She is expected to offer to amend the order to include only the pilot area.
The Badger Trust had appealed against the assembly government plans to cull badgers as part of a raft of measures to stop TB being spread in cattle.
The trust disputes a cull would make any difference to the spread of bovine TB.
It argued at the Court of Appeal that the assembly government and the minister had not shown that a cull would "eliminate or substantially reduce" the rate of TB infection.
The trust also said ministers had a duty to weigh the harm to the badger population against the possible benefits to farmers, but had not done so.
The Welsh Assembly Government is already looking at amending its control order, but there's a chance that the Appeal Court judgement will put a much bigger brake on plans for a cull.
The scale of the control order was one of three main points that the Badger Trust used in making its appeal.
It also asked the judge to rule that the proposed cull would not "substantially reduce" TB incidents, and that the assembly government had a duty to consider harm to badgers as well as possible benefits to cattle farmers.
A finding in favour of the Badger Trust on either of these points would force a delay, possibly a cancellation.
Lord Justice Pill also suggested the Badger Trust could offer a third ground to oppose the cull.
That was in relation to the eradication order relating to the whole of Wales, rather than just the pilot area of north Pembrokeshire and a small part of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
Rural affairs minister Elin Jones said on Monday the assembly government had "agreed to address this third ground of appeal in order to satisfy the court".
She said: "We have evidence that there is a bovine TB reservoir in badgers in TB endemic areas in Wales.
"I have also said repeatedly that there are no circumstances in which we would cull badgers across Wales in areas where there is no evidence that there is a bovine TB reservoir in wildlife.
"Therefore we have agreed to address this third ground of appeal in order to satisfy the court.
"We await the court's judgement on grounds one and two and we remain committed to fully implementing our TB eradication programme.
"In relation to the removal of badgers all contractual arrangements are in place, as we were prepared to begin the work next week subject to the decision of the Court of Appeal.
"While we consider our next steps and the views of the Court of Appeal, our contractors will remain in a position where they are ready to begin the work as soon as this is possible."
She said the assembly government would continue to work with the communities affected to "address any concerns and to answer any questions that may arise in relation to the TB eradication programme".'Sense has prevailed'
At least 1,500 badgers could be killed during the five-year programme.
The result of the appeal against the outcome of the judicial review is expected next week.
The Badger Trust's solicitor, Gwendolen Morgan of Bindmans LLP, said: "The key issue here is that the proposed badger cull is stopped in its tracks. The Badger Trust is pleased that sense has prevailed.
"Whilst we await the Court of Appeal's reasoned judgment, we are pleased that the court commented on the importance of protecting badgers in the course of the appeal hearing last week. Overall, it is a good day for badgers."