AN animal charity has slammed badger cull trials approved by local MP Caroline Spelman as vicious and counter-productive.
The Environment Secretary and MP for Meriden recently backed the six-week slaughter programme for badgers in two English pilot areas next year to attempt to halt the spread of TB in cattle.
Nearly 25,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year because of bovine TB, and Mrs Spelman says the trials, costing £500,000 each, would reduce cases by 16 per cent.
However wildlife and animal charities have criticised the culling, and blamed intensive and stressful cattle farming for the disease.
Director of Animal Aid, Andrew Tyler, said: "Caroline Spelman, as expected, has taken the cowardly decision to slaughter badgers. She has done this instead of demanding that farmers deal with the problems of their own making.
"The high level of bovine TB is not caused by badgers. It is the consequence of farming practices that mercilessly exploit cattle for profit- depriving them of everything that makes life meaningful."
The Wildlife Trust added that culling could actually spread infection further as badgers are displaced and has now proposed to vaccinate all badgers on their reserves and offer vaccinations to farms in Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire.
However, Mrs Spelman said the injections were difficult to administer and although they were investing £20million into badger and cattle vaccines, an oral vaccine was still years away.
"Bovine TB is a chronic and insidious disease which is having a devastating impact on farmers and rural communities," she said. "Unless further action is taken now it will continue to get worse.
"There is great strength of feeling on this issue and no-one wants to see badgers culled. But no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has successfully controlled the disease in cattle without tackling its presence in wildlife as well."
The trial areas will be announced next year before experts decide whether to roll the programme out across England.