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Brian May to lead fight against government over cull

Rock star Brian May will lead today's rally against the Government's plans. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Rock star Brian May will today lead a rally against planned badger culls, due to begin from this weekend in an effort to tackle bovine TB.

The Queen guitarist, a long-time campaigner against the plan, will be joined by TV naturalist Bill Oddie as they lead a march through Westminster.

Organisers say they expect thousands to join them, all wearing badger masks, in an effort to demonstrate their opposition to the culls, the pilots for which are in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset.

Some 5,000 badgers are set to be killed in the two south west regions, with policing costs expected to reach £4 million to cope with potential disruption from activists.

Police last night said they were "prepared" for any disruption and protests.

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Badger culling could take place 'more widely' across UK

The Government plans to roll out badger culling more widely in hotspots of the TB disease, if this weekend's pilot culls are successful.

The costs of the cull will be borne by farmers.

But experts, including scientists behind the long-term trial, have raised concerns that the policy will have "unimpressive" results in reducing TB and suggested that it does not make economic sense.

And protesters, led by rock star Brian May, have pledged to do everything possible to stop the cull, which they claim is not justified by the science and is inhumane.

Read: Protests to begin over controversial badger culling

Protests to begin over controversial badger culling

Around 5,000 badgers could be killed in two pilot culls. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Controversial culling of badgers as part of efforts to tackle TB in cattle goes ahead from this weekend, in the face of protests from animal welfare campaigners.

Some 5,000 badgers are set to be killed in two pilot culls in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, with policing costs expected to reach £4 million to cope with potential disruption from activists.

The pilot culls aim to ensure free-running badgers can be killed humanely, with marksmen observed by independent experts to check they are killing the protected animal swiftly, and post-mortem examinations carried out to assess speed of death.

The pilots will also assess whether sufficient badgers can be killed in an area to have an effect in reducing TB in cattle, following a long-term study which found that culling 70% of badgers in an area could reduce the disease in herds by 16%.

New badger TB vaccination inquiry launched

A new inquiry will be launched to examine the vaccination of badgers and cattle in relation to Bovine TB, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has said.

The inquiry is expected to cover the likely timescales and challenges in delivering vaccination programmes, their costs and efficacy, and whether a vaccination programme could be delivered without having a negative effect on UK exports.

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NFU supports Government's 'science-led' badger cull

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has said it supports the Government's decision to go ahead with a pilot cull of badgers in an attempt to prevent the spread of Bovine TB.

A statement on the NFU website from earlier this month reads:

The NFU remains fully committed to supporting the Government’s science-led TB eradication policy to tackle what is a terrible and damaging disease. Our end goal is for a healthy countryside and that needs healthy badgers and healthy cattle. This policy, and these pilots, will help to deliver that.

– NFU statement

Facts about the badger cull

  • The first licence to kill badgers was issued for a pilot cull in Gloucestershire.
  • Farmers will be licensed to shoot up to 70% of the badgers in a 300 square kilometre area in Gloucestershire.
  • A second licence for a pilot cull in Somerset is still being considered.
  • A long-term study found that culling over a number of years on a large scale could reduce the incidence of TB in cattle herds by 16%.
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