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Campaign against badger cull launched

Labour has launched a campaign to stop the planned badger cull in England.

After years of debate and controversy, the Government has now come down in favour of shooting badgers to stop the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.

Bovine TB is estimated to cost the UK agricultural sector about £100m per year, with particular hotspots in south-west England and the West Midlands. The plans include a pilot next spring, with a wider cull in 2013.

Although badgers are a protected species, ministers can sanction killing in order to tackle disease. The favoured method is ‘controlled shooting’ which involves farmers shooting badgers at night, as opposed to trapping the creatures first. Opponents to the proposals are concerned this will only make the badgers scatter, thus spreading the disease further.

Labour has launched an online petition to halt the plans, and suggest efforts should be focused on developing a vaccine instead.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh told the Guardian: "Bovine TB is a terrible disease but the Government's plans to cull badgers are bad for farmers, bad for badgers and bad for the taxpayer.

"We need a science-led policy to manage cattle movements and develop a vaccine to tackle TB in badgers and cattle. Instead, the Tory-led government has reduced the number of vaccine trials Labour commissioned to just one."

A cull has been estimated to reduce the incidence of bovine TB by 16%.

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