Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today announced the postponement of the badgercull following the release of figures which showed the badger populations in the designated cull areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset to be much larger than was at first estimated.

Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) welcome wholeheartedly the announcement.

The voluntary group was formed 10 weeks ago as a result of mounting concern amongst people in the county that potentially thousands of badgers were to be shot at night this winter.

Liz Gaffer, a spokesperson for GABS, said: “We are so, so pleased to hear this news for now. We hope the government will not just delay, but will decide not to pursue a cull as the evidence is clear that culling badgers is not the most effective, efficient or humane way of reducing bovine TB.

" People in Gloucestershire have voiced their concern over the rationale behind it, and the safety issues involved. We believe the government may have taken this on board and we will continue to campaign for a vaccination programme of cattle and badgers that we believe will really support farmers who are faced with this awful disease”.

The cull had been due to start as early as next week but has now been delayed until next summer.

Mr Paterson said today the National Farmers Union had asked for a delay after survey results showed the estimated badger populations of 4,300 in West Somerset and 3,600 in West Gloucestershire were far higher than previously thought.

As 70 per cent of badgers need to be killed in order to stop the spread of bovine TB, the costs involved would have been greater than estimated and the process could not be completed by the end of the season.