DORSET Wildlife Trust bosses have reacted with “disappointment and regret” at Whitehall’s decision to forge ahead with a trial badger cull programme.

The government has sanctioned the culls, in an attempt to tackle bovine TB in cattle, at two yet-to-be-decided locations in the new year.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said the decision whether or not to roll them out across the UK would be made after the trials.

Dorset Wildlife Trust chief executive Simon Cripps said: “We are very keen to see the eradication of bovine TB but this is not the answer.

“At the government’s own estimates, a cull would only reduce bovine TB by 16 per cent.

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

Mrs Spelman said almost 25,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year because of bovine TB.

And while opponents of the cull argue shooting badgers is both cruel and unnecessary, the National Farmers Union president, Peter Kendall, has praised Defra’s decision.

Mr Kendal said: “The most recent science show badger controls are absolutely necessary, together with cattle controls, to get on top TB.”

However, Mr Cripps believes the best solution is to concentrate on developing vaccines, for badgers and cattle, and changing EU regulations to they can be deployed to cattle commercially.

He said: “We have a great deal of sympathy for farmers who lose stock as a result of bovine TB and are acutely aware of the problems this disease causes in Dorset.

“This is why we want to see an effective solution based on scientific advice and evidence.”

He added: “We urge the government to do what is right by farmers and wildlife by eradicating this disease in cattle rather than wasting time and money on this cull.”