WEST Dorset MP Oliver Letwin was urged to ‘have a heart’ when campaigners delivered a wildlife-friendly message.

Members of Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare delivered a ‘Valentine’s Day’ card to Mr Letwin at his Beaminster advice surgery.

The group believe that badger culling is not the way to reduce bovine tuberculosis in cattle and there should be a government-funded programme of badger vaccination.

The government is assessing results of controversial pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Future culls, including the possibility of them coming to Dorset, have not been ruled out.

Mr Letwin said he supports the trial culls but also wants the vaccination of badgers to be explored.

Spokesman for Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare Karin Snellock said: “Scientific evidence clearly shows that this cruel, unpopular and extremely expensive measure does no good, and may even increase the incidence of TB in cattle. Instead we are asking that politicians of all parties support the alternative route of badger vaccination.

“In Wales, where vaccination has been carried out instead of culling, there was a 47 per cent drop in the number of cattle slaughtered due to this disease in 2013 over the previous year, compared to a reduction of only nine per cent in England.

“Dairy farmers are also under immense pressure from supermarkets which have pushed milk prices to an unsustainably low level. Those of us who buy milk should be prepared to pay a reasonable price for it, and ensure that farmers have enough income to enable them to aim for the highest possible welfare standards for their animals, which will in turn help to combat disease.”

Mrs Snellock added: “Ultimately, what we need is a vaccination programme for cattle, but until then we urge all politicians to support an increased, government-funded programme of badger vaccination, and stop any more culling.”

Mr Letwin said: “I don’t agree with the group as they oppose the trial culls which I think are a necessary part of the efforts to eradicate bovine TB.

“But I do agree with them that we should press forward with efforts to make vaccination of badgers a method that is properly tested and developed.”

Mr Letwin said it was ‘too early to say’ what the next phase will be and whether trial culls will come to Dorset.

“I believe we should use every effort we can to control this disease and while we don’t yet have an alternative we should try to get the culls to work,” he added.