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Fear badger culling will not halt disease

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Plans to kill thousands of badgers to help stop the spread of tuberculosis in cattle would actually make the problem worse, the Government's own advisors have warned.

Plans to kill thousands of badgers to help stop the spread of tuberculosis in cattle would actually make the problem worse, the Government's own advisors have warned.

Farmers have long blamed badgers for spreading the disease, which, they say, costs the industry – and taxpayers– £100 million each year. An estimated 2,000 cattle will be slaughtered in Shropshire this year.

The number of cattle slaughtered in 2003 in Shropshire was 473 but that figure had jumped to 2,165 by 2010, farmers' leaders said.

Pilot culls are to be introduced in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset this year, and could also be introduced in Wales.

If successful, a maximum of 40 badger culls could be introduced across Britain.

But according to Natural England, the Government's own advisors, badger culling will only work if carried out over large areas resulting in the killing of thousands of badgers.

Natural England says the cull must be carried out scientifically, with badgers trapped before being shot, and this must be done over a period of no more than 10 days.

The Government favours a cheaper option of 'free shooting' by marksmen over a period of six weeks.

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Natural England says this will let too many badgers escape.

Its recommendations were obtained by Labour using Freedom of Information laws. Campaigners want a judicial review of the Government's position.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh MP said the documents confirmed that Defra had 'ignored scientists' advice' on the issue.

"The scientists confirm that the Government's cull could spread TB in cattle if farmers fail to oversee an effective cull," she said.

"Ministers should listen to the scientists and cancel this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife."

A Defra spokesman said the Government 'had taken on board' all responses to its consultation.

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