FARMING minister George Eustice has confirmed North Devon is a high priority for a badger cull but only if, among other things, there are enough marksmen armed with proper nightsights.
And he's stressed to the Journal thatthe decision not to extend the culls this year beyond Somerset and Gloucester was not politically driven.
It follows deep disappointment among farmers after the Government announced it wouldn't extend the cull this year.
Some farmers who'd met Mr Eustice at Bishops Nympton a week before the announcement believed he was telling them to prepare for a cull in North Devon and they were surprised at the turnaround.
Now Mr Eustice has told the Journal he felt he'd made it clear to NFU members in the area that the Government still hadn't made up its mind at the time he'd visited North Devon.
"I don't accept it was a political decision because we are continuing the Somerset and Gloucester culls running through to October or November. We've not abandoned the cull of badgers, just delayed the rollout."
He went on to say this area was one of two hotspots the Government has been giving special attention in the fight to halt bovine TB. "Given the report (of an independent expert panel) we have to concentrate on getting the methodology right.
"The ambition to roll out the cull in hotspot areas is still there, it's still very much our view that a cull in the hotspots has to be part of a coherent strategy.
"We have to get enough marksmen in the field and make sure they're using the right equipment, particularly the right night-viewing equipment. In some cases they didn't have that." He said the Government was against lifting legal protection for badgers, which many farmers believes is the best way to control the spread of TB in cattle.
"I know some farmers think we should temporarily lift the protection. But if you're going to get the benefit of the badger cull you've got to have a coherent strategy. It would be counter-productive to tell farmers to get on with it themselves, would increase perturbation among badgers, and not be successful."