A PROPOSED trial of badger culling has sparked debate in the region between farmers and wildlife campaigners.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said she was "strongly minded" to take the controversial step in some of the worst affected areas of England.

Farming leaders believe the pilots are most likely to take place in the South West and particularly in Gloucestershire where the disease is most rife.

If the pilots were successful, culls would be rolled out in other disease-ridden areas.

With tens of thousands of cattle being slaughtered each year due to the disease farmers are welcoming the news.

John Hore, who farms near Thornbury, said it was a major step forward in fighting the disease, which can devastate the lives of cattle and dairy farmers.

"We are very encouraged that at long last the government is taking a lead on this and making a decision, we have been waiting for this for the best part of 20 years."

Mr Hore said whole herds in Gloucestershire had been decimated by the disease causing huge amounts of stress to farmers and although he would welcome vaccination, it was not something that is currently available.

"We all want to same thing, to have healthy cattle and healthy wildlife, but we have got to break this cycle of disease," he added.

However wildlife campaigners have come out staunchly against the idea.

Paul Wilkinson, of Avon Wildlife Trust, said he was very disappointed with the news.

"This issue demands a scientific and practical approach. The rationale for - and practicality of - any cull of native species needs to be extremely clear and well proven. In this case it is not."

Former Labour MP for the Stroud constituency David Drew has maintained that he is against the culling of badgers because he believes it would not work.

"All the scientific evidence shows clearly that badger culling is not effective in eradicating bovine TB.

"Bovine TB is a huge problem for farmers, so all the more reason not to go for a solution that we know won’t actually help farmers."