Britain’s oldest specialist agricultural journal has condemned government plans to shoot thousands of badgers.

The Smallholder magazine, first published in 1910, has accused ministers of poor science and “craven submission to their political paymasters in the agri-lobby.”

The latest issue of Smallholder says government plans to cull badgers as part of its bid to control TB in cattle are doomed to fail.  The magazine devotes four pages of its latest edition to the issue, reporting on the efforts of Queen guitarist Brian May to stop the cull, which is due to start on June 1.

Smallholder editor Graham Smith writes: “A few years ago, if anyone had suggested that the government should licence armed gangs to roam the countryside to shoot at protected wild animals, they would quite properly have been dismissed as bonkers.

“The imminent badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have got very little to do with TB in cattle – and everything to do with a craven government submitting to its political paymasters in the agri-lobby.

“Some badgers carry TB.  So do many other wild animals.  So do domestic cats.

“But the biggest single cause of TB in cattle is undoubtedly other cattle.  Anyone who has ever seen the steam, hanging like a shroud over a large, crowded cattle shed; a shed which perhaps was not as clean as it should be; packed with cows that rarely saw a blade of grass; will recognise the ideal conditions for transmitting TB.  Big Farming does not like this inconvenient truth because it erodes profit margins.  Much easier to blame the badger.

“Even the method of the cull – open shooting – seems almost deliberately designed to offend science.  How many bullets will be fired?  How many animals (the majority of them totally free of TB) will be simply wounded?

“When Parliament debated the badger cull only 28 MPs could be found to vote in favour of it.  147 voted against, and it seems this is a reasonable reflection of wider public opinion.

“Defra today has returned to its “Bad Old Days” when MAFF was the laughing stock of Whitehall; its desire to submit to its client-group fuelling foot and mouth disease, BSE and generally contributing to the environmental degradation of the British countryside.

“Smallholder has every sympathy with anyone whose livestock is infected with TB.  But shooting badgers is not the answer.”