Controversial plans to cull thousands of badgers in the South West to tackle tuberculosis in cattle are to be delayed because farmer groups do not have enough time to carry them out.
The news, announced by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson in the House of Commons, has been greeted with dismay by farmers stricken by bovine tuberculosis, but with delight by anti-cull environmental groups, who have fought a high-profile campaign.
But the pilot culls in bovine TB hotspot areas of West Somerset and around Tewkesbury, will go ahead in the late spring and early summer next year, said Mr Paterson.
It was the farmer companies licensed to carry out the culls, over a six-week period and before the end of the year who contacted the Government to say they did not have enough time to complete the job – because many more badgers had been found in the cull areas than had earlier been calculated.
The news caused anguish in the Westcountry, where dairy and beef producers face the constant threat of bovine TB. Last year 26,000 cattle were culled, having failed TB tests.
"I feel very frustrated and enormously disappointed," said Okehampton dairy farmer Paul Griffith, when he heard the news. "We want to defeat bovine TB."
Joe Duckworth, of the League Against Cruel Sports, welcomed the reprieve, but urged the Government to drop the cull permanently.
"At the moment badgers are on death row for nine months. We need the Government to change the policy," he said.