CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed the news that the controversial badger cull has been postponed until next summer.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson confirmed today that trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset would be delayed.

He said a number of factors had led to the decision, including bad weather over the summer, protracted legal proceedings and new research which revealed higher than expected badger numbers in the pilot areas.

The delay comes following widespread protests against the scheme and a government e-petition with nearly 160,000 signatures.

Jeanne Berry, founder of protest group Stroud 100, said: "We are relieved that common sense has prevailed but it is not a victory.

"We have to resolve the spreading of this disease but it should not be tackled through a badger cull."

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is now urging the Government to focus on a vaccination strategy.

The trust began administering badger BCG through syringes in 2011 and has vaccinated 34 badgers in seven of its nature reserves - six of which are in the Stroud district.

Dr Gordon McGlone, chief executive of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, said: "We welcome the decision to defer the badger cull however the trust will continue to press Defra to abandon a cull.

"Badger vaccination is a valuable and important technique that I believe must be used more widely. It is not cheap but neither is badger culling."

Stroud MP Neil Carmichael has this week come out in favour of the badger cull.

In a post on his website he said: "I understand the strong feeling that many people have on this issue. Bovine tuberculosis is, however, having a devastating effect on many farms and families. Doing nothing is not an option.

"While many argue for vaccination instead of culling, this is not currently a viable option."

Mr Carmichael is due to speak at a debate on the badger cull in the House of Commons on Thursday, which will still go ahead.

The cull will also be discussed at an extraordinary Gloucestershire County Council meeting on Monday.