Badger cull rally in Bristol

The fate of thousands of badgers facing slaughter hangs on a Court of Appeal hearing Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Queen guitarist Brian May will lead a public rally in Bristol today against Government plans to reduce badger numbers.

Campaigners will wear badger costumes at the free Stop the Cull rally on College Green.

The fate of thousands of badgers facing slaughter hangs on an appeal against a High Court ruling which upheld Government proposals for two pilot culls in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset.

The Government says that culling will help combat cattle tuberculosis, which costs the UK more than £100 million per year.

In July, Mr Justice Ouseley upheld proposals for the two pilot culls. The controversial scheme could eventually lead to culling in up to 10 areas per year.

The decision was a blow for the Badger Trust which said England now faces the prospect of 40,000 badgers being "pointlessly killed" over the next four years.

The Court of Appeal is now to hear its challenge to the judge's dismissal of a claim that Caroline Spelman, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was misusing her statutory powers by allowing landowners and farmers to carry out the cull.

After the High Court ruling which was welcomed by the the National Farmers Union, the British Veterinary Association and British Cattle Veterinary Association, a Defra spokesman said: "No one wants to cull badgers but last year bovine TB led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle, and to help eradicate the disease it needs to be tackled in badgers."

Cost of the cattle losses was estimated at £91 million.

But Badger Trust chairman David Williams said killing badgers makes no meaningful contribution to tackling the disease.