By Ian Dunt
Labour launched a full campaign against plans for a badger cull today, setting up a prolonged conflict with the government.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to allow farmers to shoot badgers in a bid to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.
Critics say the solution is untested and potentially counter-productive if the process drives badgers further afield.
"Bovine TB is a terrible disease but the government's plans to cull badgers are bad for farmers, bad for badgers and bad for the taxpayer," said shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh.
"We need a science-led policy to manage cattle movements and develop a vaccine to tackle TB in badgers and cattle.
"Instead, the Tory-led government has reduced the number of vaccine trials Labour commissioned to just one."
Labour has written to 25,000 supporters from previous countryside campaigns encouraging them to lobby their MP on the issue. It has also set up a website for registering support.
A government consultation on the idea was rejected by 69% of respondents
An impact assessment by the government also came to a critical conclusion saying the "costs exceed expected monetised benefits" for farmers.
A ten-year study by Labour in government decided against the badger cull strategy, with scientists saying it was "unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain".