BADGER protection groups have said a cull on the animal is not the solution to stopping the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB).

The protest comes after the Welsh Assembly announced it would allow a cull on badgers in TB hotspot areas in Wales.

It has long been argued that badgers are responsible for the spread of the disease.

With Hilary Benn, Environment Secretary, still to decide on how the spread of TB should be tackled in England, particularly Gloucestershire, badger groups have renewed their protests against a cull on the animal.

Simon Hacker, spokesman for Stop War on Badgers, an animal welfare group based in Wotton-under-Edge, said: "Widespread and sanctioned killing of badgers, as opposed to the underhand killing that's already going on, will achieve a big fat zero, save placating farming's hardcore reactionaries."

Tony Dean, from the Gloucestershire Badger Group, said: "If they do go ahead with a cull it will be in the face of all science, strong science that proves culls don't work.

"In the Republic of Ireland they've pretty much wiped out badgers, but TB is still spreading, which proves the main spread of TB is cow to cow."

In 2007 the West Country was the worst affected area by TB with 4,140 herds under restrictions because of the disease.

According to Defra, of the 1,406 cattle herds in Gloucestershire 386 were under restrictions and 1,719 animals were slaughtered because of TB between January and December 2007.

The Welsh Assembly's decision last week did receive the support of the National Farmers' Union.

Meurig Raymond, deputy president for the NFU, said: "The Welsh Assembly Government is to be congratulated on having the courage to tackle every aspect of the spread of bovine TB.

"The NFU and other industry stakeholders in England have already presented a suggested mechanism for a managed badger cull in TB hotspot areas and we would urge this to be developed alongside the Welsh pilot and implemented without delay in England."

A spokesman for Defra refused to say if the Welsh Assembly's decision would influence Mr Benn.

A spokesman said: "Hilary Benn has made no announcement and there is no timeframe at this stage for when he will. All he has said is that it is on his watch."