ANTI badger cull campaigners were given a boost when Labour’s shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle visited Stroud to back fresh calls for culling to be halted in Gloucestershire.

The MP’s visit comes a week after the Government announced it would continue with the current four year pilot cull in the county, despite abandoning plans to roll out further culls in other areas of south west England.

She had little time for recent calls to begin ‘gassing’ badgers made by Princess Anne – responding by questioning the humanness of the process, which has been illegal since 1982.

Stroud’s Labour parliamentary candidate David Drew hosted Mrs Eagle at the party’s constituency office in Lansdown, where she was joined by badger ecologist and anti-cull supporter Dr Chris Cheeseman.

Mrs Eagle backed the findings of Dr Cheeseman – a former director of the Central Science Laboratory's research facility at Woodchester Park – who has long said the scientific evidence does not support the culling approach.

“Bovine TB is a serious disease that threatens and destroys the livelihood of farmers and their families, so we absolutely have to get it under control,” said Mrs Eagle.

“But the environment secretary’s continuing cull is flying in the face of the scientific evidence we should be following.

“The most recent report by the Independent Expert Panel has found that shooting badgers is not safe, is inhumane and is ineffective, so this cull should be stopped.”

The MP pointed to an alternative approach taken by farmers in Wales, who have seen TB-related slaughtering fall by 48 per cent through a program of improved biosecurity, cattle movement and vaccinations.

She also highlighted the huge cost of the culling scheme, which wildlife charity Care for the Wild reckoned to be as much as £4,121 per badger with all associated policing, farming and ministerial costs.

“It is a very divisive issue that stirs up all kinds of social divisions and strife, not to mention it being a costly distraction for the police,” added Mrs Eagle.

Also present to greet the MP was Vanessa Price, a Labour candidate in Stroud District Council’s upcoming elections, who spoke of the horrific injuries she had witnessed while searching cull sites for shot badgers as a volunteer with the Wounded Badger Patrol.

Alongside her was Jeanne Berry and Peter Martin from action group Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting, who said they are benefitting increasing numbers of volunteers to help the fight against culling.

Cllr Drew said: “we are delighted Mrs Eagle has come out to view all the science against culling badgers. We just hope the government does the same and does not go ahead with its decision to carry on culling.”