Animal welfare campaigners are stepping up efforts to prevent DEFRA giving the go-ahead to a badger cull to control bovine TB.

The Badger Trust is urging members of the public to send a pre-prepared e-mail to DEFRA before the government’s consultation closes on 10 March.

The e-mail states that the sender is “totally opposed to any form of badger culling at least until such a time as all other possibilities for the minimisation of bovine TB in cattle have been fully proven to be ineffective”.

Meanwhile, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took out full-page adverts in the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail last week, urging members of the public to respond to the consultation with a “back off badgers” message.

In Wales, adverts were also taken out in the South West Echo and the Western Daily News.

The organisation hopes that public outrage will be sufficient to stop the slaughter of badgers.

The charity argues that the most effective way to combat the spread of TB would be more – and better – pre- and post-movement testing of cattle, together with strict quarantining of new animals.

But the NFU’s south-west regional director Antony Gibson has accused the RSPCA of being selective in its concern for animal welfare.

In resisting action to deal with the disease in wildlife, the RSPCA was turning a blind eye to the welfare of tens of thousands of cattle, he said. “It appears that, where welfare is concerned, the RSPCA regards some animals as more equal than others.”

Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, rejected the RSPCA’s claim that the main cause of the spread of TB was by cattle-to cattle transmission, rather than badger-to-cattle.

“There is no scientific justification for claims that badgers are saintly in TB-spread terms and only cattle are the villains. The two are inextricably linked in this. We have to cull out diseased badgers, just as we already cull out diseased cattle.”

The Farmers Union of Wales condemned the RSPCA for ignoring the suffering of TB infected badgers.

“The RSPCA is claiming to act in the best interests of badgers when in fact the opposite is true – they are in effect ignoring their suffering,” said Eifion Huws, chairman of the union’s milk committee.

“It is bizarre that an organisation that claims to represent the interests of all animals is asking the public to support a campaign that will continue to allow this crippling disease to spread unchecked throughout the country.”

Mr Huws also rejected the assertion in the advertisements that the main cause of spread was from cattle to cattle, when the Central Science Laboratory said that such transfer could represent a little as 15% of the problem.

“The union has never advocated the wholesale extermination of all badgers – in fact most farmers enjoy having a sett of healthy badgers on the land.

“But we recognise that measures must be taken to eradicate bovine TB from this country, and that means that infected badgers must be culled.”

The slaughter of 30,000 cattle and compliance with stringent movement restrictions showed farmers were playing their part in controlling this disease.

The RSPCA should take a grown up approach to the problem and stop portraying badgers as cuddly cartoon characters.

He urged the public to examine the scientific facts for themselves and think of the welfare of all animals. Once they had weighed up the evidence they would be convinced that a co-ordinated cull of infected badgers was the correct way to proceed.

DO YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR OWN VIEWS HEARD?

Individual farmers can also respond to the consultation by which can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/badgers-tbcontrols/index.htm