The environment secretary has criticised vets who voiced concerns about the controversial badger cull.

In a recent letter to Veterinary Record, 19 vets disputed the use of bovine TB (bTB) success stories from other countries to justify the UK cull.

The letter cited numerous cases of animal control measures from other countries affected by bTB, which vets stated failed to support the argument for culling in the UK.

The letter concluded the veterinary profession must not support the “easy fix” of culling when it is “not ethically justifiable”.

However, environment secretary and North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson disagreed with the vets’ claims, stating it was “absolutely essential” to continue with the culls.

He said: “We need to follow the Republic of Ireland and target the wildlife as they have done.

“It has reduced the number of infected cattle from 44,903 in 1999 to 15,612 last year, which proves we need to follow their example.

“There have not been the same kind of reductions in places where wildlife has not been targeted.

“We have tried vaccinations, but there is just not a vaccine for tuberculosis that works on badgers.”

However, recent figures revealed only four out of almost 2,000 badgers killed during the autumn cull were tested for TB. Critics of the cull have said there is a need for investigation into the link between badgers and infected cattle.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of The Badger Trust, condemned the lack of research behind the cull.

He said: “It’s wrong to go ahead with culls without a proper study of the effectiveness of these methods and alternative measures.

“We’re beginning to see more long-term investigations being published and I expect they will recommend more focus on cattle testing and movement controls.”

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