A proposed badger cull in TB hotspot areas of NI will not take place this year, DAERA has confirmed.
The seasonal window for wildlife intervention means a cull is unlikely to happen until next summer at the very earliest.
“As the current season will close on 30 November and reopen on 1 July, the department and stakeholders are working to have all necessary actions completed to enable the intervention to proceed next year,” a DAERA spokesperson said.
However, in an update to supporters, conservation group Wild Justice suggested there will not be a badger cull in NI for “at least 12 months”.
The Northamptonshire-based group is involved in ongoing legal action over the proposed cull and the first stage of the case was heard in Belfast last week.
The judicial review case, which is scheduled for the High Court on 21 November 2022, surrounds the public consultation that DAERA ran last year about its revised TB eradication strategy.
“We believe we have a strong case although we have learned that it is very difficult to predict outcomes in legal cases,” Wild Justice said.
The lack of a functioning Assembly and Executive at Stormont is also stalling the rollout of wildlife intervention as new legislation is needed for a badger cull to be carried out.
Other reasons for the delay surround the setting up of farmer-led companies to deliver the cull and the training of authorised marksmen to shoot badgers.
A spokesperson for DAERA said it was continuing to work with “farming bodies and other stakeholders” to help put in place “the necessary structures and processes”.
“DAERA are not aware of any individuals in NI who have completed specific training but will work with industry to ensure all appropriate approvals are in place prior to intervention commencing,” they said.
The department spokesperson added that Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots “remains committed” to all aspects of DAERA’s revised TB strategy, including badger culls in TB hotspot areas.
“The eradication of TB remains a key priority for him, and wildlife intervention is a key element of our approach to ensuring NI can progress forward with our ultimate aim of TB eradication,” the spokesperson said.