EVERY time the government seems about to announce a badger cull, something crops up to make it less likely.

First it was the fiasco that saw the government abandon plans to sell off England’s publicly-owned forests. Now it is confusion about a ban on circus animals.

A decision on a badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis was expected in February.

But the announcement was postponed – days after DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman ditched controversial proposals to sell off public forests.

Officially, the cull announcement was delayed because it was taking longer than expected to iron out the details of how it would work.

But Mrs Spelman was never likely to give the go-ahead for a badger cull so soon after her forestry u-turn.

Delaying a cull announcement until after the May local elections meant she avoided piling controversy on controversy.

But Mrs Spelman now finds herself in the headlines again – this time over the government’s refusal to ban wild animals from circuses.

The circus decision has prompted animal rights campaigners to accuse the government of ignoring public opinion.

Depending how this story pans out, a badger cull announcement could be even further away.

If she values her political career, Mrs Spelman will want to keep out David Cameron’s bad books.

As Labour MP Gavin Shuker has pointed out: “Number Ten have taken a strong interest in Defra ever since the forests screw-up.”