A controversial badger cull, which was due to take place this autumn, has been postponed until next year, it was announced on Tuesday.
Defra has agreed to postpone the pilot culls until summer 2013 to allow farmers to continue their preparations and have the best possible chance of carrying out the cull effectively.
And the NFU has said that the decision to delay was exceptionally difficult but on balance is responsible and right.
NFU President Peter Kendall said he understood that Tuesday’s news would come as devastating blow to farmers who are desperate for a solution to the cycle of reinfection of TB in their beef and cattle herds.
“The NFU and its members take their responsibilities on this issue extremely seriously and I know there will be many who are devastated by today’s news”, he said.
“We have all worked tirelessly to prepare for the delivery of this Government policy to see us finally get on top of this terrible disease.
“But there have been a series of obstacles, not least the appalling weather, delays because of the Olympics and Paralympics, and the legal challenges from those against the policy.
“And let’s be clear, the numbers from the badger population survey last week, which demonstrated just how large the badger numbers are, have left us with a huge challenge to ensure we achieve the targets needed for disease control.”
Northumberland Wildlife Trust welcomed the news but was disappointed by the motives.
The wildlife charity strongly urged the Government to use this time to focus on and plan a comprehensive vaccination strategy, claiming the Government has not prioritised deployment of the BadgerBCG vaccine, taking a piecemeal approach with minimal effort to market and support its use.
Mike Pratt, Northumberland Wildlife Trust chief executive said: “Delaying this cull for economic reasons does not offer any reassurance that this Government has reached a turning point in its approach to bovineTB.
“What it should do is draw a line under any consideration of a badger cull.”
Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease of cattle, and research in the last 15 years has shown that it can be transmitted between badgers and cattle.
Last year, bovine TB led to the slaughter of 26,000 cattle in England at a cost of nearly £100million.
In the last ten years bovine TB has cost the taxpayer £500million.