A BADGER protection group has welcomed the decision by the Government not to go ahead with a widespread cull of the animals.

The Wiltshire Badger Group was always against the plans to wipe out badgers because of their suspected link to TB in cattle.

The group expressed positive feedback when Secretary of State Hilary Benn ruled out the cull in favour of vaccines but farmers in the area are not happy about the decision.

In a statement to the House of Commons on July 8, Mr Benn announced an extra £20million over the next three years to fund the development of vaccines for badgers and cattle.

Malcolm Clark, chairman of Wiltshire Badger Group stated: "The Government's decision is firmly based on the scientific evidence resulting from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT).

"It also reflects the views of the general public who have always supported badgers and recognised they are innocent victims in the Bovine TB debate.

"The RBCT report was prefaced by a letter from its chairman, Prof John Bourne which stated, Badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain'.

"It goes on to say, Cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection'.

"The National Farmers' Union (NFU) must accept the facts and stop looking for a scapegoat.

"They only have to compare the results of the differing trial being carried out in Ireland. In Southern Ireland the Four Counties Trial has wiped out all the badgers in the whole of Cork, Donegal, Kilkenny and Monaghan, yet the level of TB outbreaks in Ireland is double that in Britain and is going up."

But farmers do not agree and NFU President Peter Kendall has warned the decision will be completely devastating to farming families and their businesses.

He said: "This is a devastating decision for farmers and their families, for their businesses and for the wider rural communities in areas which have been ravaged by TB.

"Last year saw 28,000 cattle culled with TB, and already in the first quarter of 2008 another 13,500 cattle have been lost.

"This sort of needless waste of productive animals is unacceptable and calls into question the Government's attitude not only to food security but also to animal welfare.

"This decision has condemned not only tens of thousands more cattle to death, but also thousands of badgers in areas currently free of TB."