Badger culls will be halted in Somerset and Gloucester if a Labour government is elected, shadow Defra secretary Maria Eagle has pledged.

Speaking at the Labour Conference in Manchester, Ms Eagle described the two pilot culls to combat bovine TB in cattle as “unscientific and discredited”.

“A Labour government will tackle the scourge of bovine TB, but not by using a policy dubbed an epic failure by the chief scientific adviser of Natural England,” she told delegates.

“I want to make it clear today. We will put a stop to these inhumane, ineffective badger culls.

“People wanted respect for nature and the creatures with which we share our world instead of the killing and culling and poisoning we all too often see,” she said.

Despite a wide-ranging speech, Ms Eagle failed to outline how a Labour government would tackle bovine TB – and she did not say she would rule out culling completely.

Some farmers have called for a more targeted approach to badger culling – one that would target infected setts on individual farms rather than a blanket approach across a much wider area.

Ms Eagle has previously called for an alternative long-term strategy against bovine TB based on vaccination and tougher restrictions on cattle movements.

Her comments come less than a week after farm minister George Eustice said there would be no roll out of the two pilot culls to other areas before the next general election.

But farm leaders say there would still be time for culling to be rolled out beyond Gloucestershire and Somerset next year following the election, which is scheduled for May 2015.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said he wanted a commitment to badger culling included in the Conservative manifesto ahead of the election.

Culling in endemic areas was vital to contain and eradicate bovine TB, said Mr Raymond. It was important that the government’s TB strategy was “cemented in” before the election.

“The industry has bought into it – and that includes badger culling as well as vaccination of badgers along the edge areas and biosecurity measures, which are now very much in place.”

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