The National Trust has defended its stance against the badger cull but said the recent Downs report had ‘affected the way we are thinking about the issue’.
Delegates at the NFU Tenants Conference, Peterborough, were told that the landlord acknowledged the evidence in the report and did ‘not challenge the beneficial effect’ the badger cull had on reducing cases of bovine TB.
The Downs report showed bTB incidence rates in the first two cull areas, Gloucestershire and Somerset, had fallen 66 per cent and 37 per cent respectively since the cull was launched in 2014.
In February, former Defra Secretary Michael Gove assured farmers he would ‘investigate’ the National Trust’s blanket policy that no farmer on its land could take part in the cull.
Farmers at the time said the position could undermine the Government’s 25-year bTB strategy.
When questioned by NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts on the National Trust’s former promise that it would listen to the science, National Trust director of land and nature Mark Harold said: “At the moment our stance on this issue has not changed; the culling of badgers would be contrary to the ethos we have as a conservation organisation.
“Having said that we have not ruled it out and are indeed looking at least one case where individual culling in a particular location might be one of the ways forward.
“But at the moment we do not see culling as the answer.”
Mr Harold added the Trust had set aside £1 million to support its farm tenants eradicate bTB through measures such as biosecurity and cattle handling, but only 26 farms so far had taken up the offer.
He said the Trust was focused on the vaccination of badgers as an alternative to culling.
“We would like to find a way of going beyond [being against badger culling] being our position and instead think how we can more practically and proactively work to find ways through,” Mr Harold said.