FARMERS in Herefordshire are welcoming a top scientist's view that badger culling should be used to control the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.

The Government's chief scientific adviser Sir David King has recommended in a new report that the killing of badgers should be made in areas where there was a "high and persistent" incidence of the disease in cattle.

Herefordshire has been a hot spot for TB for a number of years and many farmers blame badgers for the spread of the disease.

Backing his opinion was Hereford NFU chairman Julia Evans, who is also a beef and sheep farmer in Whitebourne and has recently had cattle test positive for the disease.

Mrs Evans said: "It looks like it could be progress. A lot of farmers that have got TB on their farm have closed herds and don't buy in cattle but we still get it occurring.

"So it does point at badgers being part of the TB problem. So this is very welcome news."

But she said it would have to be done effectively.

"The point is if badger culling is to be done, it needs to be done efficiently and they haven't come up with a way to do that yet. But it is progress."

Mrs Evans found out at the beginning of October when she took 20 pedigree heifers for sale and four tested positive for the disease.

This is the first time this has happened since 2004 - and she estimates she has lost £15,000 because of it.

The 16 remaining animals are now back on her farm, her business has been closed down, and she is worried as their grazing grass is disappearing.

"This area is a hot spot. There are two other cattle farms up the valley from me who are suffering.

"TB has been a dire situation in Herefordshire for years. That is the reason I got involved with the NFU because of TB," she added.

Another farmer, James Hawkins, who is based on the National Trust property of the Brockhampton estate near Bromyard, last week had 21 cattle react to the disease.

"There are a lot of badgers at the moment and they do seem to be overpopulated," he said.

Mr Hawkins said he welcomed a cull but said it would have to be fully regulated by Defra and the NFU.

Defra has said no decision on a cull was iminent.

But RSPCA head of wildlife science Rob Atkinson said: "A cull would mean a senseless slaughter, enormous suffering and would be scientifically bankrupt.

"This latest report seems less about science, and more about caving in to the pressure to do something - even if that something is the worst possible option.

"Killing badgers is never going to be the simple solution to the complex problem of bovine TB."