GLOUCESTERSHIRE could be one of two counties selected to pilot a controlled cull of badgers in an effort to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman announced last week that she was ‘strongly minded’ to press on with the controversial move in areas most affected by the disease, believed to be Devon and Gloucestershire.

Nearly 25,000 cattle were slaughtered in England in 2010 because of bovine TB, which cost the country a reported £90 million last year.

It is particularly bad in west and south west England, where 23 per cent of cattle farms were unable to move stock off their premises in 2010 after being affected by the disease.

The pilot culling scheme would be overseen by an independent panel of scientific experts to monitor the effectiveness and humaneness of controlled shooting.

"I wish there was some other practical way of dealing with this, but we cannot escape the fact that the evidence supports the case for a controlled reduction of the badger population in areas worst affected by bovine TB," said Mrs Spelman.

"I know that a large section of the public is opposed to culling, and that many people are particularly concerned about whether it will actually be effective in reducing TB in cattle and about whether it will be humane."

Former Stroud MP David Drew has not only questioned the humaneness of the cull but also its effectiveness.

"All the scientific evidence, of which there is plenty, shows clearly badger culling is not effective in eradicating bovine TB," he said.

"Millions of pounds have been spent, and thousands of badgers already killed as part of a huge survey - but all it showed was that killing badgers did not reduce bovine TB.

"Bovine TB is a huge problem for farmers, so all the more reason not to go for a solution that we know won’t actually help farmers."

Further consultation is to take place and the naming of the pilot areas will be officially announced later in the year.