David Heath: Why I authorised badger cull pilot in Somerset and Gloucestershire
Somerset MP and farming minister David Heath has defended his decision to authorise a badger cull.
Writing in tomorrow's Western Gazette he says if there was another option, he would have taken it.
His comments came after more than 110,000 people signed an e-petition calling on the Government to abandon badger culls due to take place in Somerset and Gloucestershire.
In his weekly MP's column, Mr Heath writes: "I don't know anyone who relishes the idea of killing that most popular species the badger.
"If there was a satisfactory alternative to the small pilot culls which I have now authorised, then believe me I would have taken it, and I still would."
Mr Heath defends the decision not to use vaccination as an alternative to a badger cull, saying it would be impracticable and vastly expensive.
He also dismisses claims that a badger cull will wipe out the species as "nonsense," pointing out that in TB free areas like West Sussex no badgers will be targeted.
But the Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admits a cull will not eradicate bovine TB on its own.
"Taken with other measures on cattle-to-cattle contact and biosecurity, it will result in a substantial reduction," he writes.
"I think we owe it to everyone to try. If a real alternative exists, I would be delighted. At the moment, it doesn't."
Read Mr Heath's column in the Western Gazette tomorrow.