LEAVE our badgers alone.

That was the message from Hampshire councillors who overwhelmingly backed a motion this week to ban badger culling on county-owned land.

It comes after pilot culls have been launched to destroy 5,000 badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire to curb the spread of Bovine TB in cattle.

Lib Dem Cllr Rupert Kyrle put forward the motion at the full council meeting in Winchester on Thursday (Sept 19).

His motion argued that culling was not a scientifically proven solution to the TB problem.

It said: “More research should be undertaken by Government and the scientific community to find more effective and cheaper vaccinations for badgers and cattle to help eradicate this terrible and costly disease from the countryside.”

After the vote, Cllr Kyrle, who represents Botley and Hedge End, said: “This is a great day for badgers in Hampshire! It was great to see councillors of all political colours coming together to send a strong message to government over their misguided support of badger culling.

“We all want to see a real solution to prevent the spread of Bovine TB across our countryside, but it is not right that badgers should be singled out in this way.

“To make matters worse, taxpayers are being made to pay for the slaughtering of native species when the evidence in favour of the cull is shaky and inconclusive. We must protect our countryside, and that includes the species that make it their home.”

Bovine TB has been spreading across the country since the late 1980s but culling has long been opposed by animal welfare groups including the Badger Trust and the RSPCA.

But some farmers’ organisations have been calling for culls because of the costs of mandatory slaughter of infected cattle and subsequent loss of trade.

The disease can be passed to humans but is not considered a significant risk because of modern health control measures such as the pasteurisation of milk.