Footage appearing to show the death of a badger killed as part of a controversial cull has fuelled calls for the shootings to stop.

Badger culling was given the go-ahead in the east of the county in a bid to prevent the spread of deadly bovineTB in cattle.

But this has proved an emotive issue which escalated over the weekend, when secret filming allegedly showed a badger in Cumbria taking nearly a minute to die after being shot as part of the cull.

Anti-cull group the Hunt Investigation Team said its secret cameras near the sett in Cumbria captured the killing.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said that the film footage that emerged from Cumbria is the first time they had seen evidence of cull contractors at work.

He said the video released by the Hunt Investigation Team had been met with calls for the shooting of badgers to stop.

"The film footage that has emerged from Cumbria clearly shows a badger taking over 50 seconds to die after being shot in a cage, and contractors removing it from the site without bagging and sealing the carcass in line with government TB biosecurity guidelines," said Mr Dyer.

Workington MP and shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Sue Hayman said: "I'm shocked at what this footage has revealed is going on here in Cumbria, in particular the time it takes for an animal to die, and the simply unacceptable practices which go against the Government's biosecurity guidelines.

"Labour will continue to push for more funding for vaccinations against bovine TB, improved testing, and controls on the movement of cows infected with the disease."

Mr Dyer claimed "the war on wildlife had been carried out in secrecy by poorly paid contractors with no independent monitoring or concern for animal welfare or public safety".

"The feedback we have had from this video shows the majority of the public are totally opposed to badger culling," he added.

The trust estimates that the government may have licensed the killing of more than 75,000 badgers by the end of the year, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.

It claims that once all the Whitehall administration, equipment, storage, training, monitoring, policing and legal costs are taken into account, the cost of cage trapping and shooting a badger is more than £1,000 per animal.

In comparison, the cost of cage trapping, vaccinating and releasing a badger is less than £200 per animal, the trust says.

Both Mr Dyer and David Harpley, conservation manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said they were concerned that the badger cull was feeding broader wildlife crime.

"This could open the door to live caged badgers being either sold to or captured by those who indulge in badger-baiting," said Mr Dyer.

Both men say the best and most cost-effective way of dealing with bTB in cattle is vaccinating badgers and better cattle movement controls and on-farm biosecurity measures.

Mr Harpley said: "I have real sympathy for the financial hardship and emotional impact that this awful disease has on farmers and their families in one part of the county.

"None of us want to see the slaughter of cattle or badgers and we all want to see an end to this serious disease.

"However, a cull of badgers is not the answer and risks making the situation worse.

“The science shows that only one in 20 cases of bovineTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers, the remainder arises from cattle to cattle transmission or other sources of infection."

The government says contractors receive thorough training to cull humanely.

The badger cull was recently extended into a "pocket of infection" in the east of the county, as well as 10 high risk areas across England.

The Hunt Investigation Team said the badger in the video was "just one of the 42,000 sentenced to death in the cruel, unscientific cull".

"Independent vets reviewing the footage have confirmed the badger's prolonged suffering," a spokesman said.

The National Farmers Union in defending the cull said that in the case of Cumbria, a unique partnership had been formed between Government vets and farmers in a bid to stamp out a "pocket of infection" in the county.

A spokesman for the NFU in Cumbria said: “Bovine TB remains a huge threat to our beef and dairy industry and it is vital we do everything we can to tackle it.

"Culls are paid for and carried out by licensed independent companies who use trained contractors following APHA best practice guidelines.

"The Chief Vet has stated that dealing with the disease in badgers is necessary as part of the TB eradication strategy and in conjunction with all cattle measures, proactive culling is the best available method to do this.”