ROCK star Brian May joined dozens of anti-badger cull protesters on a walk through one of the pilot areas on Friday night.

The Queen guitarist got a warm round of applause when he met with around 50 people taking part in one of the nightly Wounded Badger Patrols in Eldersfield, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.

The controversial pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire aim to tackle tuberculosis in cattle by killing around 5,000 badgers over a six-week period.

The NFU confirmed that the west Somerset cull began last week and opponents believe the shooting in west Gloucestershire started on Tuesday night.

May said his visit to the county was timed to give a morale boost to those out on nightly badger patrols.

The musician, a leading opponent of the cull, had earlier been in Newent to meet residents and discuss their views on the pilot taking place on their doorstep.

May, who is a member of the Team Badger campaign, said: "I'm here to support our people who are here on the ground doing what they can to observe and try and make sure that humanity is followed in this cull and trying to save the lives of badgers.

"I'm here to see what happens and give them moral support as I believe the Government is doing something very immoral in our name, using our money.

"Once the country sees what is going on with the brutality and the senselessness of this Government policy I don't believe that Britain will stand for it.

"We are a nation of animal lovers and we are decent people.

"It's a desperate situation and a bloody situation in the countryside and if this rolls out all through England it's a disaster.’’

An online petition that May started against the pilots has become the most signed on the official Government website, with 300,000 people having added their name.

"You can feel the surge of public opinion really moving now,’’ May said.

"The petition is over 300,000 and people are realising - particularly the farming community - that this will not solve the problem.

"It actually brings more problems.

"The perturbation which is happening because they are not killing these animals outright will actually spread the disease, if any of these animals are infected.

"It is very questionable how many are infected. All the great scientists in this country in that area are saying this cull will not work and will not solve this problem.

"The only thing that will solve the bovine TB problem is vaccination.

"Vaccination for badgers in the beginning because that removes that small part of the equation but also the cows - we have to be vaccinating our cows.

"Successive governments have been dragging their feet on this issue for much too long.’’

May described claims that culling badgers would control TB in cattle as "absolute rubbish’’.

"You could cull every badger in the British Isles and you would still have TB in cows,’’ he said.

"That's the naked truth and there is no possible doubt about that.

"11,000 badgers have already died in a very good experiment done by the Randomised Badger Culling Trial.

"Their conclusion was that culling badgers cannot meaningfully contribute to the control of bovine TB in Britain.

"This is a political thing. It is being done because the Government, the NFU and the Countryside Alliance are all in bed together and what they want is for wild animals to be devalued.

"They want to be able to regard a wild animal as nothing and kill it.

"Where is the incentive to cull exactly 70 per cent of the badgers? It's all a nonsense - they don't even know how many badgers there are.

"So there is no way they can accurately do this cull.’’

The previous night, Gloucestershire Police said four people had been arrested at around 2am in the Forthampton area.

They were held on suspicion of aggravated trespass after police responded to reports of horns being blown and individuals straying from a public footpath.

Police said they refused to give their details and a short time later when they did supply the information they were released.

The culls aim to assess if culling can be done effectively, safely and humanely, with plans to roll out the scheme more widely in areas that are hotspots for TB in cattle.

Farmers and the Government insist culling of badgers, which can spread TB to cattle, is needed to stop spiralling rates of the disease in herds.

But opponents say culling the protected animal will have only a small effect on infection rates in cattle and will lead to badgers suffering.

They want the emphasis to be on vaccines and tighter on-farm and cattle movement measures.