A new attempt at introducing a badger cull in parts of west Wales has been proposed by the rural affairs minister.
Elin Jones said she was “committed to tackling the bovine TB crisis in Wales” and that “most experts” accepted a link between badgers and the disease in cattle.
An annual cull is planned over five years for north Pembrokeshire and part of Ceredigion.
A legal challenge halted an earlier plan.
A three month consultation will now take place on the proposals, which have been welcomed by farmers’ leaders.
Opponents had wanted a vaccination programme instead and the Badger Trust called it a “desperate attempt to stand up a failed policy”.
The move comes two months after the trust won an appeal court ruling to stop a planned pilot cull.
The appeal court had ruled the assembly government was wrong to make an order for the whole of Wales rather than the pilot cull area it had consulted on.
Last week it emerged ministers in England propose licensing farmers to shoot badgers on their land.
Monday’s announcement is not believed to be directly linked to the Defra move, with ministers looking to tailor a policy for Wales rather than working with the UK government.
The assembly government is proposing an annual cull over a five-year period.
Anti-cull protesters, headed by the Badger Trust, have argued there was no scientific proof that badgers transmitted TB within cattle and doubted a cull would help eradicate the disease.
Some opponents have suggest a vaccination programme instead.
But Ms Jones said she was “committed to tackling the bovine TB crisis in Wales” and would not allow the current situation to continue.
- The area involved has 321 herds, which accounts for 2.5% of cattle herds in Wales but 14.6% of compensation paid out for TB slaughter
- The number of cattle slaughtered is falling but the long term trend is upwards and a suggested turning point is “premature”
- The plan “does not differ in substance” from the earlier plan but the legislation “now clearly defines the area”
- The plan will also limit cattle movements and test herds more frequently
- Vaccination of badgers and cattle is still “likely” but the effect of large scale vaccination of badgers is “unproven”
- No final decision has been made on when the cull will start
- The government will enforce access to land if necessary
- Rather than a system of licences for farmers, the government-led approach will ensure that officials can access all land and “meet the requirements of an efficient cull”
- Source: Welsh Assembly Government
- Consultation document
“I will state again that the cost of this disease in the last 10 years, when nearly 100,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Wales, is more than £120m,” she said.
“This is taxpayers’ money the assembly government has paid out to farmers in compensation.”
She added: “Most experts agree that badgers play an important role in the transmission of bovine TB and that we will not eradicate TB if we do not tackle the disease in both wildlife and cattle.”
In Wales, around 1,500 badgers would have been killed in the north Pembrokeshire area under the original pilot plan.
The badgers were to have been trapped in cages and shot under the proposal.
But the appeal court ruled the assembly government was wrong to make an order for the whole of Wales rather than the pilot cull area it had consulted on.
The assembly government said the new draft order is specific to an “intensive action area” covering north Pembrokeshire and areas of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.
More than 12,000 cattle in Wales were slaughtered as a result of TB infection in 2008.
Farming unions welcomed the assembly government’s new proposal.
Farmers’ Union of Wales spokesperson Brian Walters said it was an “important step” to addressing the “epidemic” which had cost the lives of thousands of cattle in north Pembrokeshire alone and caused “overwhelming suffering and trauma” for animals and families.
NFU Cymru deputy president Stephen James said the cull was about “eradicating the disease not eradicating badgers, and to achieve our goal of healthy cattle and healthy wildlife we must be able to tackle the disease in both populations”.
A Badger Trust spokesman said the cull proposal was a “desperate attempt to stand up a failed policy”.
“What we did was to go to court, we got a decision and it’s up to Elin Jones to make up her mind on what she wanted to do,” the spokesman said.
“Now that she has done it, we will have to consider our position.”
He said the trust would not comment on the possibility of further legal challenges.