DORSET Farmers say they have been left ‘without hope’ by the government’s decision not to roll out the badger cull across the county.

Despite plans to relaunch culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset, local farmers feel that they have been left high and dry by the government. Farmers say many have already gone out of business and more will do so unless badgers in the county are culled.

The government came under extensive fire from badger groups after the culls in Gloucester and Somerset were labelled ‘inhumane and ineffective’ by the independent expert panel monitoring the cull. Now the government has said its proposed roll out to other areas will not go ahead.

Kevin Wallbridge, a fourth generation farmer from Hooke, who had 14 cows test positive in his dairy herd in May, said farmers feel the situation is hopeless.

He said: “They are putting ever more controls on the farmers with new restrictions and our cows are being slaughtered but they are not doing anything about why the cows are getting it.

“We were a closed herd and there was no way our cows got TB from other cows.

Without the badger cull all we are going to do is testing cows all the time without getting rid of the source of the infection. It is pretty hopeless.

“For farms like us it is very soul destroying. We are testing our cows every two months, which is not easy or particularly safe because they don’t like being tested. It is the most stressful time we have on the farm. I feel I am banging my head against a brick wall. It could put a farm like ours out of business.”

Andy Food, NFU regional livestock chairman, said: “There is tremendous frustration from Dorset farmers in that the longer it takes for us to get on top of this disease, the longer the pain.”

He welcomed the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate TB and said farmers would be willing to wait for the cull – but only for a year.

“We cannot wait for the magic wand of vaccination and purely reactor culling, because there are farmers in Dorset who are giving up because of the pressures of TB and unless they can see light at the end of the tunnel more will do the same. We need to be resolute that this needs to be rolled out to other areas and Dorset needs to be the next one on the list.”

Andy Hamilton of the Dorset group of Badger and Bovine Welfare said the science didn’t prove killing badgers was an effective way of controlling TB.

He said: “This disease needs to be eradicated at source – cattle.

“A better test for TB, one that gives fewer false positives and negatives, would help. Tightening of previous lax controls of cattle movements has already yielded dramatic falls in TB rates. However, farmers must put their own houses in order too. “