Badger cull plan is branded 'cruel' by Leicestershire campaigner
Plans to give cattle farmers the power to kill badgers infected with TB have been opposed by a county campaigner.
Proposals for culling badgers in TB hotspots were unveiled by the Government yesterday, as part of a package of measures to deal with spiralling infection rates of the disease in cattle.
However, it is hoped the measures will not be needed in Leicestershire for some time as the spread of the disease here is limited so far.
Farmers have repeatedly called for a cull of badgers, which can carry and spread TB to livestock.
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Worst-hit are the South West and Wales.
Pam Mynott, from Oadby, is a director of the Badger Trust, set up to protect the animals.
She said: "We are opposed to culling because it is not only cruel but very expensive and relatively ineffective.
"Better herd management vaccinations should be looked at first.
"Fortunately for Leicestershire, we are very far from being a hotspot.
"They will only allow killing in areas with historically high levels of TB, where hundreds of herds and 14% of badgers are infected.
"For a long time, cattle in Leicestershire were clear of TB. It was only after the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 that it has gradually returned as farmers restocked their herds with cattle from other areas."
Phil Abbott, of Church Farm, Seckington, on the Leicestershire-Warwickshire border, who is county spokesman for the East Midlands Livestock Board, said: "Badgers and livestock get on happily but the minute you get an infection then the badgers need testing and if found to have TB they want culling.
"Badgers are territorial so if you have a healthy sett they actually deter others from the area.
"But once you get an infection, then the only thing to do is to kill the whole sett."
According to Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs figures, TB "incidents" were found in 39 of Leicestershire's 1,236 cattle herds, up to June this year.
That compares with 426 in a so-called "TB hotspot" such as Devon.
Alison Pratt, spokeswoman for Leicestershire's National Farmers' Union, said: "The TB problem is not as bad in Leicestershire as other parts of the country but it's still a worry for those farmers whose herds are under restriction.
"If the government does approve this change in legislation, which will allow farmers to apply for licences for the control of badgers, and the situation in Leicestershire does worsen, then farmers will have this in their armoury to enable them to tackle this awful disease.
"It costs the industry and taxpayers hundreds' of millions pounds a year.
"It could take years to get TB under control and eventually eradicate it."