CAMPAIGNERS opposed to the planned badger cull in West Somerset remain hopeful that their voice will be heard after a well-attended protest.

More than 100 people, including farmers, attended a peaceful outdoor meeting in Dunster on Tuesday night, organised by the Somerset Badger Group and East Huntspill-based Secret World Wildlife Rescue.

Protesters, some dressed in high-vis jackets and badger masks, flocked from around the country to represent charities and other groups opposed to the cull.

The rally was designed to show the strength of feeling against the cull before it begins and came just as it was announced that MPs will hold a full debate on the issue next Thursday (October 25) in the House of Commons.

Defra hopes to trial shooting badgers in West Somerset and Gloucestershire in an effort to stop the spread of TB among cattle.

Some 26,000 cattle had to be slaughtered as a result of the disease last year. But speakers at Tuesday’s protest said vaccination against TB was the answer, not only for badgers but also for cattle.

Pauline Kidner, of Secret World and the Badger Protection League, said: “We were amazed at the response to a meeting that was only organised four days ago. Representatives were here from as far away as Wales, Worcestershire and Surrey.

“With the letter sent to the Government from more than 30 eminent scientists, including the chief veterinary government adviser, calling for a halt to this cull, together with a huge public response, surely they will start to see sense. This cull is being driven purely by political force and not science.”

Organisers said the large turnout suggested many people would be prepared to join them on night walks to find injured badgers if the cull goes ahead.

An on-line petition against the cull, most notably publicised by Queen guitarist Brian May, has now been signed by almost 160,000 people.