A CONTROVERSIAL badger cull is likely to go ahead in West Somerset in just a few months despite indications of changes to the pilot zones.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs proposed the scheme over a year ago in a bid to combat bovine TB, and licences were issued last autumn for the culling to take place in West Somerset and Gloucestershire.

But the cull was postponed in November after more badgers were found to be living in those areas than expected.

Farming minister David Heath MP said last week that the delay could lead to the cull being carried out in different places than planned, but that the Government still plans to carry it out, possibly starting in late spring.

Ian Johnson, NFU South-West spokesman, said: “I don’t think it’s any less likely that a badger cull will take place in West Somerset.

“They have to do it where there’s the best possibility of making the pilot work, so West Somer-set remains a strong contender.

“What David Heath has said is that the Government remains wholly committed to carrying out the cull as part of the fight against bovine TB, but it might be that new areas are added.

“At the end of the day, what they want to do is stop this extremely distressing and costly disease, and to do that it has to be controlled among wildlife as well as cattle.

“All the same arguments remain in place, as do the preparations.”

There has been widespread public disapproval of the cull with a petition calling for it to be abandoned attracting hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Groups such as the Badger Night Walkers have been set up who protest peacefully against the plans and distribute information to the public.

Adrian Coward, chairman of the Somerset Badger Group, told the County Gazette: “The Government is aware of the massive opposition to shooting badgers.

“Public awareness about healthy badgers being shot as part of the cull is increasing, but the Government’s intent on killing badgers out of political expediency and the need to be seen to be doing something.”