A MOTION calling on the Government to seek alternatives to the planned badger cull has been passed by members of Gloucestershire County Council.

The authority will now write to the Environment secretary Owen Patterson to object to the shooting of badgers on council owned land and to highlight concerns about the practicalities, as well as the welfare implications of the proposed cull.

Ministers say the cull, which is due to start next month in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, is necessary to halt the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.

But the motion, passed by a majority of councillors during a meeting at Shire Hall on Wednesday (May 15), raises concerns that the Government has ignored 'public, parliamentary and scientific opinion by ploughing ahead' nontheless.

The motion, proposed by Lib Dem councillor Klara Sudbury, describes the highly controversial cull as a 'cruel and ineffective attempt to tackle bovine tuberculosis' and says the Government would be able to better serve the farming community by investing in vaccination programmes.

A total of 25 councillors backed the motion, with 19 voting against and seven abstaining.

During the meeting, GCC's Conservative leader Mark Hawthorne (Quedgeley), who allowed his party colleagues a free-vote on the issue, said he felt the motion was 'flawed' because it discriminated against tenant farmers who might want to participate in the cull on council owned land.

Cllr Hawthorne also said he felt scientific opinion was divided on the issue.

However, Labour's Stephen Lydon (Dursley) said he had 'real fears' about the health and safety risks of shooting badgers at night, adding that the cull was not a solution.

Cllr Sarah Lunnon (Green Party, Stroud Central), who also supported the motion, said: "It seems to me that the cull is not supported by any robust scientific evidence at all."

Speaking after the meeting, the Lib Dem proposer of the motion Klara Sudbury, said: "I am delighted that on this occasion the county council have recognised the strength of scientific opinion which says that the proposed pilot badgers' culls will not help tackle bovine TB in cattle."

Reacting to news that GCC had passed the motion, the farming minister David Heath, said: “TB is having a devastating effect on farmers. It’s disappointing that the council does not want us to do all we can to save Gloucestershire farmers from this disease.

"The science is clear that culling will help to reduce bovine TB as one part of our overall approach to eradicating this disease.

"We fund a badger vaccination project in Gloucestershire, we have tightened controls to stop the spread between cattle, and are working with farmers to limit contact between cattle and badgers.”