THE chairman of the Worcestershire branch of the National Farmer’s Union has welcomed a Government announcement that it will introduce a major badger cull in England to tackle TB in cattle.

Farmer Tim Jones said the decision was “regrettable but absolutely necessary” to control bovine TB.

Mr Jones, who farms near Tenbury Wells, said the disease was the largest threat facing the beef and dairy sectors and action over bovine TB was long overdue.

He said: “A government decision of badger control is regrettable but absolutely necessary to control bovine tuberculosis.

“This disease is destroying family businesses and seeing cattle slaughtered unnecessarily, we want to see a healthy countryside for cattle and badgers. The disease is the villain here – not farming or badgers.”

Defra – the government agriculture department – said nearly 25,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year because of bovine TB, which cost the country £90 million. The problem is particularly bad in west and south-west England.

As we reported back in April, cattle farmer Martyn Cook saw his fifth herd infected. Mr Cook had his 268 cattle tested on the farm at Colles Place, near Knightwick, only to find 50 were carrying bovine TB and had to be slaughtered.

Consultations will be carried out before any mass cull is allowed but the Government plans to carry out a pilot in two areas where it is thought that about 1,000-1,500 badgers would be culled over four years. A nine-week stakeholder consultation on its delivery will now begin.

If found to be effective and humane, the policy could be introduced across England.

But the announcement was branded as a “black day for badgers” by the RSPCA, which claims the scientific case to support the mass slaughter of badgers had not been made.

The RSPCA said vaccination of badgers, increased levels of testing, improved biosecurity and stricter controls on the movement of cattle were more effective ways of eradicating bovine TB for good.

Colin Booty, senior scientist for the RSPCA, said: “This cull will contribute little or nothing to the long-term goal of eradicating TB nationally. Instead it will wipe out huge numbers of this much loved species, including many animals which are healthy.”