Farmers want to gas badgers rather than snare them if Government proposals for a mass cull of the protected species are given the go ahead.

The National Farmers' Union, which blames the mammals for spreading bovine TB in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire, fears snaring the creatures will only disturb a population, forcing them to move to another area.

The concerns will be voiced at a series of NFU meetings being held for West Midlands' livestock and dairy producers to discuss the Government consultation on TB.

The meetings come after Worcestershire farmer Samantha Qureshi lost her battle to stop Defra taking away eight cattle which had reacted to a TB test.

Defra took Ms Qureshi, of Pensax, to court last week after she prevented officials from taking the animals away.

She argued that the TB tests were inaccurate and that previous animals from her farm which had reacted to the dis-ease had been later found not to have TB.

The animals, one of which is about to calf, are due to be slaughtered this week. The NFU has already condemned the Government's latest proposals to eradicate the disease, claiming it does not adequately address the issue of badger culling.

Andrew Richards, senior policy adviser for the NFU West Midlands, said: "Snaring is unlikely to generate the required level of cull, with the result that it will simply serve to disturb the badger population rather than remove them from the control area."

The proposal for premovement testing from February 20 is likely to generate discussion between those producers who are in TB-free areas and those in the hot spots. The meetings will provide an opportunity for producers to demonstrate their strong views on the issue.

Dates for the planned meetings are as follows:

February 13: 7Y, Leominster, February 14: YFC Haw-ford, Worcester, February 15: Festival Drayton Centre, Market Drayton, February 20: Ledbury Rugby Club, February 23: Rudyard Hotel, Leek.

The Government consultation on badger culling ends on March 10.