The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has said that the proposed badger cull in Northern Ireland is unlikely to happen this year.

This is down to two reasons it said, the first being the lack of required training carried out.

Under the proposals for badger intervention, agreed by Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots, the intervention will be delivered by farmer-led companies.

A spokesperson for the department said: “To ensure that any intervention is delivered to professional standards and ensure high levels of welfare, specific training of those operators engaged by these companies will also need to take place.”

The spokesperson added that DAERA is “not aware of any individuals in Northern Ireland who have completed this specific training”.

It added that the department plans to work with industry to ensure all appropriate approvals are in place prior to intervention commencing.

The second reason for the delay is that in order for a badger intervention to take place, legislation needs to be laid at the Assembly.

And, under current policy, “no activity which disturbs badgers or badgers setts can take place from November 30 until July 1”, the DAERA spokesperson said.

The department is actively working with key partners to progress the necessary structures required for the intervention, following which the necessary legislation will be made.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended for the last couple of months and is set to resume on Monday (September 19).

As the current season closes soon, on November 30, the department and its stakeholders are “working to have all necessary actions completed to enable the intervention to proceed next year”.

This would see the badger cull begin in July 2023.

Badger cull – TB Eradication Strategy

According to the DAERA spokesperson, Minister Poots “remains committed to the implementation of all the actions within the TB Eradication Strategy”.

The strategy includes additional cattle measures, action on wildlife, the testing of non-bovines and enhanced bio-security.

When launching the strategy back in March, Poots said: “I know that wildlife, particularly badgers, are a significant factor in TB maintenance and spread in the environment.”

“I very much appreciate that this is an emotive issue for many but in order to ensure a healthy cattle population I intend to introduce a programme of badger intervention in a limited number of areas.”

“I want to make clear this is not the wholescale removal of badgers across Northern Ireland nor is it the removal of all badgers in an area,” he added.