Badger cull 'to start in county next week'
RUMOURS are rife that the badger cull will start in Gloucestershire next week.
About 5,000 badgers are expected to be killed in controlled shootings over six weeks in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Supporters say the cull is necessary to tackle bovine TB, which can be spread from infected badgers, but opponents say it is inhumane and ineffective.
The first shots have already been fired in Somerset, but it is believed the cull will start in Gloucestershire next week.
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Charles Mann, NFU county chairman, refused to confirm or deny those rumours.
He said: “As much as we would much rather not do all this, it is a necessity for the cattle and for the badgers. Don’t forget that the badgers are infected as well and are dying slow, painful deaths.
“To sort this out, we need to make sure the wildlife is clean.”
Liz Gaffer, spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting, said: “I have heard that shooting is starting next week, but there are lots of rumours flying around.
“We have badger patrols out every night at the moment. I think we have between 100 and 200 volunteers.
“These are not animal rights extremists, they are just normal people who are concerned about how humane this cull is.”
Environment secretary Owen Paterson said: “We know that despite the strict controls we already have in place, we won’t get on top of this terrible disease until we start dealing with the infection in badgers as well as in cattle.
“That is why these pilot culls are so important. We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly. If we had a workable vaccine we would use it.
“We are working on new badger and cattle vaccines, but they are years away from being ready and we cannot afford to wait while TB gets worse.”
The pilot badger cull in both Somerset and Gloucestershire is managed by Natural England under licence from Defra. In Gloucestershire, the cull will be undertaken by a private operating company, which will determine where and when it starts.