BADGER culling will not be allowed on council-owned land leased out to farmers in future contract agreements – unless there is no viable alternative to control Bovine TB.

Cheshire East Council’s cabinet firmed up the local authority’s position against culling badgers at Tuesday’s meeting.

Members agreed to endorse badger vaccinations and good biosecurity measures as alternative ways to curb the disease, which led to the slaughter of more than 4,300 Cheshire cattle in 2017 and 2018.

CEC will now also change future farm tenancy agreements to require written consent for culling to take place on land it leases out – and this will only be granted if there is evidence to prove no viable alternative to culling, or if legislation changes to require culling.

Cllr Nick Mannion, cabinet member for environment and regeneration, told councillors the policy will allow prospective tenant farmers to ‘clearly understand the council’s position as the landowner’.

The policy was welcomed by Labour Cllr Laura Jeuda, cabinet member for adult social care and health.

Winsford Guardian:

She said: “We cannot fail to recognise that the culling of badgers is cruel. There is a recent report by the RSPCA that said when a badger is shot, it can take up to five minutes for that animal to die.

“Now five minutes may not seem very long, but it is a significant amount of time for anybody, or anything, to suffer.

“We know that vaccination can work, and if we have got the resources to do it, that has to be the way forward.

“If we get rid of every single badger in this country, what is going to happen to the rest of our biodiversity?”

Cllr Janet Clowes, leader of CEC’s Conservative group, suggested it is ‘sensible to make CEC’s policy clear’ about culling on its farmland.

Winsford Guardian:

But she raised concerns about the extra burden that would be placed on tenant farmers applying for permission to cull on CEC land – and suggested that the policy could be overturned by Defra if it felt culling was required.

Cllr Clowes added: “That is adding an additional significant burden to farmers who will not be undergoing culling operations, or even thinking about it, without considerable burdens of responsibility imposed on them by Defra and Natural England.

“It is not something you go into frivolously, they have to jump through numbers of hoops, it is part of a collective decision.”

Responding to Cllr Clowes’ concerns, CEC leader Cllr Sam Corcoran said: “I think we all recognise that Bovine TB needs to be addressed.

READ > Town and parish councils invited to contribute funding towards new bus services

“If the farmers don’t want to allow culling on their land then there is no burden at all – there is no action required and we would support them in that.”

Farming union NFU Cheshire had been expected to object to the plans at the meeting, but no representative attended.