The Badger Trust has dismissed claims that bovine tuberculosis is killing badgers in large numbers.
In a letter to food and farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick, the trust said there was no scientific evidence to suggest badger populations were suffering because of the disease.
The letter came in response comments made by Mr Fitzpatrick earlier this month during a visit to south-west farmers whose livestock have been hit by bovine TB.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he had not previously recognised the pain and suffering the disease was inflicting upon badgers.
“They are dying in numbers,” he said. “This is almost an issue for their welfare and survival as much as it is for dairy herds.”
But the trust said claims about the disease’s impact on badgers were unsubstantiated and used by pro-cull lobbies to emotionally influence the public.
The only published report on causes of badger deaths showed levels of TB had no resemblance to badger population size, it said.
“In addition, badgers with active TB infections do not necessarily exhibit any clinical signs and may live for several years and successfully produce cubs,” it added.
The letter also said trust members had spent “thousands of hours” observing badgers and had found no evidence the disease was causing a welfare issue within badger populations.
“We accept that the control of bovine TB is a complex, long-term problem but we believe that your government’s current policy for England, based as it is on the best available science, is the correct one,” Mr Fitzpatrick was told.
The trust said it would continue to oppose proposals for badger culls using all legal means possible.
It has won a judicial review of the decision to carry out a targeted cull in Wales, which will be heard next month.