A BADGER protection group has said there is still hope for the animal despite the release of a new Government report endorsing a cull.

Sir David King, a Government Chief Scientist, announced on Monday that a cull would help to bring the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle under control.

It has long been claimed by farmers and industry officials that there is a link between TB in cattle and in badgers.

Stop War on Badgers, a badger protection group based near Wotton-under-Edge, has always campaigned against a cull and this week said Sir David King's report was not the end of the debate.

Simon Hacker, spokesman for the group, said: "It does not seem definitive to us. It's as if the government has put out a feeler on it trying to see what people's reaction would be.

"The NFU has put a lot of pressure on the government. We feel this is a political statement.

"If they were to implement a cull there are a lot of people who are land owners, not farmers, who would be against taking out a native species.

"The badgers are just a scapegoat. If there's any evidence of TB in badgers it should be dealt with in a humane way without going after the animal."

However, Sir David King's endorsement of a cull was welcomed by the National Farmers' Union (NFU).

Meurig Raymond, NFU deputy president, said: "Now that we have scientific endorsement for the principle of badger culling, there can be no further excuse for the Government not to act.

"We stand ready to play our part in carrying out a scientifically designed badger culling strategy in partnership with the government's veterinary advisers in accordance with the Chief Scientist's recommendations."

Mr Raymond said that, to be effective, a badger cull would have to reduce badger numbers significantly in the worst TB hotspot areas.

For more information visit www.stopwaronbadgers.org