DORSET’S largest conservation body has condemned the controversial badger cull, just approved by government.

Dorset Wildlife Trust has joined other trusts across England in strongly opposing a decision slammed as inhumane, unnecessary and ignoring the main body of scientific evidence.

“We are very keen to find an effective, long term solution to the problem on Bovine TB (bTB), which is why we want the government to put more effort into an effective vaccine instead of a cull,” said Simon Cripps, chief executive of DWT.

“We have a great deal of sympathy for farmers who lose stock as a result of bTB and are acutely aware of the problems this disease causes in Dorset. However a badger cull is not the answer.”

Subject to successful trials next summer, groups of farmers will be licensed to organise the widespread shooting of badgers across the English countryside.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said it was clear badgers were contributing to the spread of TB among cattle and current measures were not checking it.

“This terrible disease saw 25,000 cattle slaughtered last year, has cost taxpayers £500m over the last 10 years in England alone, and if not checked, will cost a billion pounds over the next decade,” she said.

However the trust believes bTB should be tackled on many fronts, including vaccines for badgers and cattle and use of all possible biosecurity measures to prevent transmission between cattle.

It strongly supports the development of the bTB vaccine for cattle and calls on government to show a clear commitment to ensuring this takes place.

In June Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust embarked on the first trials of the injectable vaccine that is already available for badgers.

“It is vital for wildlife that extensive cattle grazing remains economically viable,” said Simon. “However, even at the government’s own best estimates, a cull would only reduce bTB by 16 per cent.

“It could actually make the problem worse by spreading the disease onto farms previously unaffected.”

The cull, even among farmers, is likely to be the subject of a legal challenge.