THOUSANDS of badgers will be shot to control bovine TB across England – but they have been spared in Lancashire.

The government announced the cull after the disease is believed to have been responsible for the slaughter of 25,000 cattle a year.

The move was labelled 'a black day for badgers' and 'a welfare disaster' by animal welfare groups, who called for vaccinations instead.

It is believed 1,000 to 1,500 badgers will be killed in two pilot areas in the West Midlands and the South West over four years.

But the cull will not take place in Lancashire as the disease is not as widespread.

Samlesbury farmer, Graham Young, who is the National Farmers Union Lancashire County Chairman, said: “Lancashire is very lucky that at the moment we are relatively free from bovine TB.

“That said it is important that action is taken to make sure the disease does not become established in the county as it has done in parts of the West Midlands and the South West.

“Unfortunately, the science shows that this will not happen unless the reservoir of infection in the wildlife is addressed.

“As a low incidence area we will not see a cull of the wildlife taking place, which is right given the fact that our wildlife is not infected.

"Everyone needs to take action now to make sure that the county’s cattle and wildlife remain free from TB.”

Bovine TB is a growing problem in West and South West England and farmers will lose £9billion over 40 years if nothing is done, the Government claims.

But critics have blasted the move, which will see farmers shoot badgers at night.

Kate Fowler, from Animal Aid, said: “Shooting free-running badgers will be a welfare disaster.”

The announcement was made by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and the consultation on the plans ends on September 19.