The badger cull plans have triggered the largest animal rights response since fox hunting

Cameron: It takes courage to kill badgers

Cameron: It takes courage to kill badgers

David Cameron has defended the upcoming badger cull, saying it takes "political courage" to pursue the policy in the face of widespread opposition.

Some 5,000 badgers will be killed in two pilot culls in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset, possibly as early as this month.

"They are going to go ahead and it's important that they go ahead. I think the countryside needs from the government not just cash and commitment but it needs courage," he told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today.

"This does require political courage, but we have that political courage because quite simply it's the right thing to do.

"If we don't do anything we're going to be spending over the next ten years another billion pounds dealing with the consequences of bovine TB, and let's be clear there are appalling consequences not just for the cattle and the farmers, there are also appalling consequences for the badgers."

The government believes the cull is necessary to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis, but many experts warn that it could be counter-productive.

The pilot scheme is authorised for a six-week period in the six months following June 1st, with an assessment afterwards establishing whether enough badgers can be killed to reduce TB in cattle.

The government's own chief scientist and 30 eminent animal disease experts oppose the move.

"The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case," commented Lord John Krebs, who oversaw the ten-year culling trials which ended in 2007.

President of the Royal Society Lord Robert May said: "It is very clear to me that the government's policy does not make sense.

"I have no sympathy with the decision. They are transmuting evidence-based policy into policy-based evidence."

Some animal rights campaigners have pledged to try and disrupt the cull, in tactics last seen during fox hunt sabotages in the 1990's.