A TEST cull of badgers in Somerset was set to begin in October 2012, and it bought hope to farmers across the South West that Bovine TB was soon to be tackled effectively.

The first test cull licence was issued by Natural England in Gloucestershire earlier in October 2012.

It was hoped the tests would prove effective in tackling the disease, which was crippling farming businesses across the region, with 26,000 sick cattle being slaughtered each year.

The test cull was to be centred on an area primarily in the West Somerset Council district and partly in Taunton Deane.

Camborne and Redruth MP George Eustice, who hails from a Cornish farming family, welcomed the news that the cull was set to start.

He said: “TB is causing heartache for many farmers who are losing cattle from their herds and they will welcome this announcement because there is no example in the world of a successful attempt to tackle TB without also dealing with the problem in the wildlife population. While I want to see a TB vaccine introduced as quickly as possible to help control the spread of the disease, this will not cure those badgers already infected and will only protect healthy badgers.”

Defra Minister David Heath said: “Our priority has always been to ensure that any culling of badgers is carried out in a safe, humane and effective way.

“The licence for Gloucestershire issued by Natural England meets all the strict criteria we imposed, and the pilot in this area will help us assess the effectiveness of controlled shooting before we look at a wider roll out to control the spread of bovine TB in cattle.

“No one wants to kill badgers but the science is clear that we will not get on top of this disease without tackling it in both wildlife and cattle.”

Campaigners against the cull, including members of the Badger Trust, vowed to continue to fight against the scheme.