Farming leaders in the Westcountry have accused rock star Brian May of politicising the badger culling debate instead of treating it as an animal welfare issue.
The Queen band member prompted a response from the NFU following an article he wrote in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday.
In the piece, the vegetarian musician denounces Prime Minister David Cameron for allowing pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire to go ahead in a month’s time.
The cull is being trialled in an effort to prevent TB from badgers infecting cattle and in turn their slaughter.
Mr May said although he voted Conservative he would never vote for Mr Cameron because of the cull.
He branded the move part of a “particularly nasty kind of Conservatism” and said the cull was “being pursued on the pretext of ‘doing something’ about the problem of bovine TB.”
The guitarist wrote: “Nevertheless, Cameron, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman cling to this appalling policy, and one can only assume that they are pandering to a powerful farming leadership who helped elect them.”
He went onto say: “Anyone who dares to disagree with the NFU or the Countryside Alliance (over the cull) is branded a nutter.”
Mr May calls for the cull to be jettisoned and states: “The first steps in this country will be to abort this disgraceful, tragic, and pointless killing of badgers. The cull must be stopped.”
Ian Johnson, spokesman in the South West for the NFU described Mr May’s opinions as “rubbish”.
In response to Mr May’s comment in the article that “Even the National Farmers’ Union admits killing badgers on this scale will not solve the problem,” Mr Johnson said: “I don’t know where he’s got that from.
“This is not political – this is an animal welfare issue and he should not be politicising the problem.
“Brian May is a well-intentioned, very rich misguided person.
“If he wants to get involved in animal welfare he should be getting involved with the scourge of TB that affects not just cattle but other species too.
“His comments do nothing to help a rational debate about the problem.”
Mr Johnson rejected Mr May’s further assertions that “David Cameron leads a new generation of Tories hell-bent on bringing back bloodsports – to make it once again legal to tear apart foxes and stags with packs of dogs, and to bring back the despicable ‘sport’ of hare-coursing.”
He said: “These comments are really not helpful. Brian May doesn’t realise that before blood hunts were banned there were lots of farmers who didn’t want the hunt going over their land because they didn’t agree with it.
“He’s obviously a very intelligent man so I can’t understand why he’s involving himself with issues he does not understand.”
A spokesman for Downing Street said the Prime Minister was on holiday in Cornwall and declined to comment, adding it was a matter for Defra.