The pilot badger cull due to start this summer in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset is one of the most controversial rural issues of recent years. Some 5,000 badgers are due to be killed in the cull rumoured to be starting this month. While campaigners say the cull is inhumane and want it replaced with a vaccination programme, farmers say urgent action is needed to stop the spread of bovine TB which is destroying livelihoods.

The SNJ asked anti-cull campaigner Jeanne Berry and the National Farmers' Union to give their sides of the argument.

Jeanne Berry is the founder of anti-badger cull group Stroud 100 and a member of Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting.

BOVINE tuberculosis (bTB) is devastating for farmers.

A humane and sustainable solution urgently needs to be found but culling badgers is not the answer. The public deserve to know the facts, so a few are highlighted below.

Government science is unreliable. BTB testing is inadequate and gives many wrong results so disease is passed between cattle unknowingly when cattle are moved.

Cattle movements have quadrupled between 1999 (3,373,646) and 2010 (13,690,294) increasing the spread of the disease.

Government expert Lord Krebs, who originated a 10 year culling trial in which 11,000 badgers were killed stated: “The scientific case is as clear as it can be, this cull is not the answer to bTB in cattle.

"People seem to have cherry-picked certain results to try and get the argument they want."

Badgers can spread bTB but so can 30 other mammals including deer and dogs.

Science shows that culling badgers causes them to roam beyond their own territories, making matters worst.

Putting bTB in context, 25,000 cattle were slaughtered because of bTB in 2010 but 300,000 were slaughtered prematurely for other reasons including mastitis and lameness.

Government figures show that the culling of badgers for four years will only result in a 16 per cent reduction in bTB and this will take nine years killing many thousands of healthy badgers.

Ministers say not to cull will cost an extra £1 billion over the next 10 years in compensation but this isn’t supported by their own statistics.

Vaccinating badgers will have the same effect but would be cheaper, more humane and produce quicker results.

The costs of the two trial culls are estimated to be nearly £5 million, which will exceed the cost of a badger vaccination programme.

Trusted experts against the cull include David Attenborough, Chris Packham, the RSPCA, Wildlife Trusts and Gloucestershire councils.

The Welsh Government scrapped its planned cull and vaccinated badgers instead.The proposed cull is cruel.It is impossible to humanely kill a badger with rifles as they roam at night time, many will be wounded.

The Government confirms that the culls humaneness will be tested by listening to the cries of badgers shot in the cull.

In Government trials only about one per cent of badgers were seriously diseased.

Night time shooting of badgers is untested and is a serious public safety risk for people as the bullets can travel up to two miles. Despite this local people will not be told when shooting takes place.

Farmers say badgers spread bovine TB and that a cull is needed because of the devastating impact the disease is having on livestock

Kevin Pearce is the NFU's director of regions.

NFU MEMBERS are incredibly frustrated by the lack of action from successive governments to address the impact that bovine TB has on cattle.

We acknowledge the determination of the current Defra ministerial team but there is still a significant degree of concern and scepticism that this consultation is taking place prior to any visible evidence that progress has been made in tackling the disease in badgers.

The NFU and most farmers accept that TB eradication will require simultaneous action on a number of fronts.

But the common perception is that additional cattle controls have been progressively ratcheted up along with a promise of a comprehensive approach, but ultimately with no action taken on badgers.

Controlling bovine TB is a complex issue and we do not underestimate the challenge of achieving an ‘officially bovine TB free’ status for England.

But we believe that the strategy should recognise that while achieving this status may take some time, the impact of a comprehensive control strategy, including a rolled out badger culling programme, would deliver significant results in a much shorter time frame.

For any successful strategy to work it has to build support from cattle keepers and lead to increased confidence that the Government is serious about eradicating bTB.

Unfortunately, pushing ahead with this consultation at a time when cattle keepers do not see any actual action to control the disease in badgers is not helping start the process of turning suspicion and scepticism into support and confidence.

It is also clear that we need a comprehensive range of measures that can be used to tackle the disease and we support work to develop alternative badger control strategies and vaccines for both cattle and badgers.

Unfortunately, much of this work is many years away and there may have been too much ‘official’ talk about what we may be able to do at some stage in the future and not enough emphasis on what we can actually do now.

We can’t lose sight of the here and now and the devastating impact this disease is having on cattle herds and the farming families that care for them.

So we simply have to use the options currently available and this must include badger culling.

Such a policy must not be about ‘demonising’ any area of the country, it must be about being aware of risk and having the tools to manage risk.Bovine TB has been a scourge on our cattle industry for far too long.

The NFU and its members are committed to playing our part in eliminating this disease.