THE RSPCA said the announcement of a cull was a “black day for badgers”.

It said more effective measures would be the vaccination of badgers, increased levels of testing, improved biosecurity and stricter cattle movement controls.

Colin Booty, RSPCA senior scientist, said they were sympathetic to farmers struggling to cope with the effects of bovine TB But he said: “We believe the Government has taken the wrong fork in the road with this risky policy.

“This cull will contribute little or nothing to the long-term goal of eradicating TB nationally. Instead it will wipe out large numbers of this much-loved species, including many animals which are healthy.”

However, farming organisations and vets welcomed the announcement.

The North-East National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said no cull would take place in Yorkshire or the North-East as only a small number of incidents had occurred and there was no evidence of the disease in the local badger population.

Richard Ellison, NFU regional director, said the region had so far been fortunate.

He said: “However, we are seeing it march inexorably northwards and that is something we are very concerned about, given that our goal is to protect both our local cattle and our wildlife – which is currently TB free.”

Nationally, NFU president Peter Kendall welcomed the Government’s decision and said: “This has never been about eradicating badgers – this is about eradicating disease.”

William Worsley, Yorkshire landowner and president of the Country Land and Business Association, also welcomed the announcement.

“Mrs Spelman’s statement today is courageous, signalling her intention to take a decision, undoubtedly unpopular in some quarters, for the good of the health and welfare of farmed animals and wildlife.”

Jeremy Walker, national chairman of the Tenant Farmers’ Association, said: “Cattle controls have been in place for many years but have proved ineffective on their own to control this terrible disease.”

The British Veterinary Association and its specialist British Cattle Veterinary Association has long campaigned for a targeted humane badger cull and supported Defra’s commitment to tackling the disease.