A BADGER cull will probably happen in Dorset next year, the man in charge of policing in the county has said.
Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said it is likely it will happen in the county in 2015 following a pilot cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire last year.
A final decision from ministers is expected in a month’s time as it is understood the government is awaiting reports on the pilot schemes.
Dorset was set aside as a reserve site in case the pilot culls could not go ahead.
The scheme came under fire when the cull in both Somerset and Gloucestershire had to be extended after marksmen failed to shoot the target number of animals. Both culls failed to meet their targets.
The controversial culls were ordered to help prevent the spread of bovine TB in cattle.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned the disease could ‘break the back’ of the livestock industry in the South West, which is the worst affected region in the country.
The cull is opposed by wildlife groups and campaigners – including Dorset Wildlife Trust which started vaccinating animals on its nature reserve last year to demonstrate it is a safe and humane alternative to badger culling.
Chief executive of the trust Simon Cripps said the fact the pilot culls finished with low numbers of badgers being shot strengthens the need for the government to support alternative methods to culling.
Speaking at a residents’ forum, PCC Martyn Underhill said: “It looks like the badger cull will be coming to Dorset. “There are always two sides to every story and it is certainly very divisive. We will be looking to stay in the middle of that dispute and not take sides.
“The debate on whether it's right or wrong is irrelevant because it's a government law and nothing to do with me. We comply with the law and we don't have a view on it but hopefully we won't have any disorder in Dorset.”
He confirmed the costs of policing any protests would be funded by central government.
Campaigners in Dorset have tried to push for different solutions to badger culling.
Members of the Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare, who have been touring the county in their ‘Badger Battle Bus’, say there is support from communities for alternatives to shooting.