Support has been given to government plans to cull at least 70 per cent of badgers in two pilot areas in a bid to control the Bovine TB epidemic.

The two ‘pilot’ areas would be at least 150 square kilometres in size and farmers and landowners would be licensed to use a method of ‘controlled shooting,’ most probably involving contractors.

Last week Helston area MP Andrew George described this as an “untried and untested method” and warned it risked making animal disease worse, but Falmouth and Truro’s MP Sarah Newton has this week come out in support of the plans.

She said: ‘‘I am very aware of the strength of feeling this difficult issue provokes in many people. However I am persuaded the plans outlined by the government to tackle Bovine TB will prove effective in combating the disease.

‘‘We are at the point where cattle measures alone are not enough to prevent the spread of disease up the country. In order to stop it spreading further we need to address the issue of infected badgers passing the disease to cattle.”

Nearly 25,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year and the problem is particularly acute in the west and south-west of the country.

The government has said the cost of the disease to the taxpayer was set to reach £1 billion in England over the next ten years unless action was taken.

The planned programme would include the routine testing and surveillance of cattle and the slaughter of those affected, with £20 million invested in research over the next five years in order to develop effective cattle and oral badger vaccines as quickly as possible.

Science-led controlled culls of badgers in the areas worst affected by TB would take place and these pilots would confirm how effective and humane the use of controlled shooting was, overseen by an independent panel of scientific experts.

If culling was confirmed to be effective then the policy would be rolled out more widely.

Mrs Newton added: “‘Scientific evidence, in particular the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), has shown that culling can be effective in doing this. I am pleased that the government has considered concerns expressed during the recent public consultation on the subject and will be introducing culling on a pilot basis only.

‘‘I can assure you that I have not reached this decision lightly. But I believe that the government’s proposals are the right thing to do. We need decisive action to start the process of turning the tide against this terrible disease.’’