A badger cull has not been ruled out in Cumbria in the fight to tackle a devastating cattle disease outbreak.

A Government agency says culling of badgers in a 250km area from the south of Shap to junction 40 of the M6 at Penrith was an “option”.

“It is something we are working closely with farmers on. It depends on the extent of the disease and anything we would do would be proportionate to that.

“It is not something we could rule out,” said a spokesman for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

The agency is looking at a number of measures after deadly bovine TB was discovered in badgers in Cumbria for the first time.

APHA has been investigating outbreaks of the disease among cattle on 16 farms in the affected area for the past two years.

This has led to more than 100 cattle being slaughtered after testing positive for bovine TB.

This has come as a shock to the farming community and wildlife campaigners as, up until now, no evidence of the disease has been discovered in local wildlife.

In the south-west of England government-sanctioned culls of badgers have taken place in a bid to halt the spread of the disease. Investigations into the source of the outbreaks in Cumbria and how much the disease has spread are ongoing.