Defra's TB risk map shows West is at centre of storm
A map has been released showing the bovine TB hotspots where cattle are most likely to get infected.
The Defra graphic confirms that the Westcountry is in the "high risk" area of the UK in which infection from badgers is defined as "endemic".
The red zone covering a large swathe of the country – including the whole Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset – has the highest recording of the disease in cattle.
The Government is committed to a bovine TB strategy that sets out the aim of being disease-free in England within 25 years. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has called the issue "the most pressing animal health problem in the UK".
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As part of the control strategy, a pilot cull of infected badgers is taking place in West Somerset where 5,000 of the wild animals will be killed.
If the six-week trial proves effective, the cull could be rolled out across the country.
Ministers are hoping to reduce the incidence rate substantially to achieve OTF (Official TB Free) status.
Supporters say the action is needed to help tackle the cattle disease, which has been steadily rising since the 1980s.
Campaigners against the cull say it will have no impact on bovine TB, and could lead to local populations of badgers being wiped out.
A petition calling on the Government to stop the cull has climbed past 300,000 signatures after it became the biggest ever petition on the official website in July.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said it showed the strength of public opinion against the "misguided" cull.
Protesters have been undertaking patrols in Somerset, where the cull started a fortnight ago, and Gloucestershire, where it began last week.
Queen guitarist Brian May, one of the leading voices opposing the cull, joined protesters in Gloucestershire on Friday. The rock star faced a huge backlash for describing it during his visit to the South West on Friday as "genocide in the countryside".
Four people thought to have been taking part in anti-badger cull protests were arrested in Gloucestershire on Tuesday. The three women and a man were held on suspicion of theft and aggravated trespass. One of the women was also arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, which police said was a knife.
Rumours on social media website Twitter over the weekend that campaigners were fired upon in an act of "intimidation" were dismissed by police.
No one involved with the cull has said how many badgers have been shot or killed so far.