FARMERS and conservationists have gone head to head over plans to cull badgers in England to prevent the spread of bovine TB.
The disease is rife in some areas of the country and the Government announced on Tuesday that it has decided to allow a large scale cull of the animals in areas that are most affected, to avoid it spreading to counties such as Lincolnshire and Rutland where it is not yet a problem.
The disease, carried by badgers, affects animals including cattle, deer, goats, pigs, llamas and even dogs and cats. It is already established in parts of Leicestershire and Derbyshire.
National Farmers’ Union regional director Richard Hezlet, who is based in Uppingham, said: “I join with farmers across the region in breathing a huge sigh of relief that for the first time in decades we have the possibility of a plan that will enable us to rid both cattle and wildlife of this dreadful disease.
“Whilst we understand that bovine TB has now become established in the badger population in parts of Derbyshire and Leicestershire we still have significant areas that remain bovine TB free and we must keep it that way.”
A public consultation will be held until September to give interested parties a chance to give their opinions.
The Wildlife Trust says it feels vaccination would be a more humane way of dealing with the problem.
A spokesman said: “The Wildlife Trust works closely with many farmers because they play a crucial role in conserving wildlife and managing the countryside.
“We have a great deal of sympathy for farmers whose stocks are affected by bovine TB. It is a serious problem but a mass eradication of badgers is not the answer.”