AN ONLINE petition opposing the badger cull has broken the record for the largest number of people ever to sign a government e-petition.

Team Badger’s petition has received 263,000 signatures pledging support against government policy of killing badgers in a bid to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle.

The petition has been signed and promoted by Dorset Wildlife Trust, a member of the team which is a coalition of organisations fronted by Queen guitarist Brian May.

Simon Cripps, the trust’s chief executive, said: “Dorset Wildlife Trust has been outspoken in our opposition to badger culling in Dorset and we will not allow badger culling on our land.

“We are sympathetic to farmers who have to deal with the devastating effects this disease has on cattle and we continue to support alternative methods such as cattle vaccination, better bio security and badger vaccination.

“There is clearly a huge amount of public opinion against badger culling and we hope this petition will encourage the government and Dorset NFU to re-evaluate their culling policies to reflect the overwhelming, scientific evidence that culling badgers is not an effective means of control.”

Defra estimates a badger cull is likely to see at best a 16 per cent net reduction of bTB in cattle and there is scientific evidence to suggest a cull may spread the disease further as it will increase movement and contact between infected cattle and badgers.

It is for these reasons the trust believes the vaccination of cattle in the long term and badgers in the short term are a more effective way of controlling the disease in cattle.

The trust is planning to start a badger vaccination programme later this year on its land.