A CHANGE in government policy could mark the end of controversial badger culling in England.

The government have revealed that the badger culling policy would begin to be phased out within the next five years, and be gradually replaced by government-supported badger vaccination and surveillance.

Culling badgers is a method used across the UK to reduce the number of badgers and thereby reduce the incidence and spread of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) that might infect humans, as badgers mark their territory with urine which contains a high proportion of bTB bacteria.

The disease affects cattle and other farm animals including pigs, goats, deer, sheep, alpacas and llamas.

According to the RSPCA, the infection rate among badgers is four to six per cent.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) has joined with others across the country in opposing the badger cull, pushing for change and campaigning for "medicine, not marksmen" in the fight against bTB.

Debbie Tann, CEO of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: "The badger is one of our most beloved and remarkable native species and I urge the government to rapidly invest in a strategic and widespread badger and cattle vaccination scheme, that can finally bring the wanton destruction of a precious protected species to an end."

Last September, ministers approved culling in 11 new areas with up to 64,000 animals expected to be killed last autumn.

The cull started in 2013 in Gloucester and Somerset and takes place in 43 areas of the UK where badgers in the selected areas are shot.