WILDLIFE campaigners are celebrating after MPs voted overwhelmingly to halt the controversial badger cull in West Somerset.

At a debate in the House of Commons last week, a motion by MP Anne Main to halt the ‘failed’ trials was passed by 219 votes to one .

The vote does not bind ministers to abandon the policy but is considered a victory in the battle to stop the cull.

Adrian Coward, chairman of the Somerset Badger Group, said: “It just goes to show that Parliament understands the majority of people’s feelings on this.

“Shooting them is not going to be any good for badgers, conservationists or farmers.

“Conservationists and farmers must work together to prevent the spread of bovine TB another way.”

The cull was introduced last year in a bid to tackle the spread of TB in cattle but now the Government is being urged to back a vaccination plan.

After the vote in the Commons on Thursday (March 13), shadow farming minister Huw Irranca-Davies told MPs: “Today parliament has expressed its very clear view against the mass cull of badgers.”

“We have already the cross-bench support for a new way forward, a new consensus based on vaccination and cattle measures.”

It was the first time the culls, which took place in parts of Somerset and Gloucestershire, were discussed since they ended in December.

RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles added: “We are delighted the MPs have listened to the advice of the experts and voted overwhelmingly to abandon the badger cull.

“The secretary of state Owen Paterson now has to listen to the voice of Parliament and discard any plans to roll the cull out further.”

As reported in the County Gazette, Parliament’s decision comes just weeks after a report on the outcome of the culls was leaked.

An Independent Expert Panel was appointed by DEFRA to evaluate the ‘safety, efficacy and humanness’ of the pilot culls.

Two weeks ago, the findings of the panel were leaked and suggested the culls were ineffective and had also failed on the humaneness test.

It confirmed that in six to 18% of cases badgers had taken more than five minutes to die, meaning that the humaneness element of the culls failed.