VOLUNTEERS keen to stop a controversial badger cull are carrying out TB vaccinations around west Cornwall.
Licensed volunteers this week trapped and vaccinated seven badgers against the disease at a horse sanctuary near Pendeen.
The animals have been blamed for spreading bovine tuberculosis in cows, devastating farmers' herds and livelihoods.
The Government has launched "pilot" badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, where marksmen will lay bait and shoot them.
Farmers are split on the move but many animal-lovers, landowners, scientists and politicians have spoken against culling, including MP Andrew George. Nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition against the cull.
Mr George last week revealed that the Government had granted funds to start a trial vaccination project in Penwith overseen by the Zoological Society of London.
The idea is that a cull could not be carried out in the same area.
But a separate vaccination programme has been running for three years through Cornwall Badger Rescue.
Trained, qualified and licensed "lay vaccinators" have been offering cut-price badger vaccination to landowners to reduce the impact on farmers and protect the creatures.
Cornwall Badger Rescue's Bob Speechley said his group had vaccinated 26 animals this year.
This week they were at Liz Jupe's Broomfield Sanctuary.
She said: "We have farm land all around us; it will help the farmers, their cattle and the badgers. You feel so helpless [when a farmer loses cattle to TB] and this is something you can do."
The process involves setting humane traps at night and then injecting them at dawn.
Ms Jupe said: "In a cull you could shoot a healthy badger and any you don't shoot will move territory and infect other badgers if they have TB."
Sennen ecologist Kathryn Driscoll, who recently became an Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency-registered (AHVLA) vaccinator, injected the badgers at Broomfield.
She said: "We only need to capture and vaccinate 70 per cent of the sett to bring down levels and in four years eradicate TB from the sett.
"Badger vaccine costs £20 per badger and that's all the cost involved.
"We hope to work with Andrew George and Rosie Woodruff from Penzance, who was the government adviser during the last badger cull, but we are keen to encourage landowners to take up our offer now."
Visit www.cornwall-badger-rescue.co.uk/ for more details.