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  1. West Country (E)

Minister defends Badger Cull

On the day that the badger cull is expected to get under way, the Environment Minister David Heath has justified the reasons for the controversial action.

Speaking on ITV's Daybreak programme, Mr Heath, the MP for Somerton & Frome said he understands the protestors' concerns, but insists he wants to see both healthy badgers and healthy cattle in the future.

  1. West Country (E)

Badger cull expected to begin today

It's thought culling companies employed by DEFRA will start shooting the animals from tonight. Credit: ITV News West Country

A controversial badger cull is expected to begin later today.

It's thought culling companies employed by DEFRA will start shooting the animals in West Somerset and Gloucestershire from tonight.

The Government says culling is necessary to eradicate TB in cattle, but opponents say it's ineffective in combatting the disease.

The action is likely to result in the largest animal rights protests since the ban on hunting foxes with dogs with many people expected in the cull zones.

The pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset could see around 5,000 badgers killed if completed.

Wildlife trust's plea for £30k to vaccinate badgers

Pilot badger culls are due to get underway in Gloucestershire and Somerset Credit: PA

Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust is trying to raise £30,000 to vaccinate badgers against bovine TB on its key nature reserves.

The Trust is opposed to the Government plans of badger culling and say it won't happen on their land.

The Trust says it owns three pedigree cattle herds, which it uses to provide conservation grazing, vital to manage wetland, grassland and heathland nature reserves in the counties.

It's asking for help to raise the money to vaccinate the badgers on its nature reserves.

Midlands protesters against badger cull travel to London

The badger culling season begins today Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Coach loads of campaigners from the Midlands are travelling to London today to protest against the proposed culling of badgers.

They will take to the streets of the Capital and present a petition signed by 228,000 people at Downing Street.

Controversial culls begin today in parts of Gloucestershire.

Around 5000 badgers will be killed during trials in two parts of the country to see if humane culling reduces incidents of TB in cattle. If effective, further culls will take place.

Last year, 28,000 infected cattle were slaughtered.

The Farming Minister David Heath says:

"Nobody wants to kill badgers but the scientific evidence and experience of countries tells us that we will not get on top of Bovine TB without addressing infection in wildlife as well as cattle. A badger vaccine has practical difficulties and there is not yet any evidence on its effectiveness".

Anti-cull protesters Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire/Press Association Images

But those against the cull say it will have no obvious effects, it is not based on scientific evidence, and that it does not make economic sense. The claim it is inhumane with badgers likely to suffer before dying or dying slowly from infection or starvation if they are wounded.

They would prefer efforts to be focused on the development of a TB vaccine.

Philip Mansbridge, from animal charity Care for the Wild, says:

"The badger cull has no scientific, economic or animal welfare justification.

"The Government and the NFU are blindly embarking on one of the worst agricultural policies of the past 30 years, which will lead to senseless slaughter, chaos and disruption in the countryside, huge cost to the taxpayer and no meaningful reduction in the spread of bovine TB."

Campaigners wearing masks will join rock star and campaigner Brian May in London today.

Last year, 28,000 cattle were slaughtered because they had Bovine TB Credit: DAN PELED/AAP/Press Association Images

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