The advert, launched by the charity Care for the Wild, has appeared in London and will be displayed on billboards around the country, as well as online and in print.
It includes an image of a badger, a rifle and blood spelling the words ‘Stop the Cull’, displayed to catch the eye of London shoppers.
Dominic Dyer, the charity’s policy adviser, said the advert was intended to help people ‘understand what is happening in the English countryside right now’. He acknowledged the 12,000 figure included 11,000 killed in the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT), under the previous Government.
An NFU spokesman dismissed the campaign as ‘nothing more than a shock tactic and ‘a distraction from the real issue – the need to tackle bovine TB using all available options’.
He said including badgers killed in the RBCT, which finished eight years ago, was, ‘in our view, misleading to the public about what is currently happening in Somerset and Gloucestershire’.
“More than 70,000 cattle have been compulsorily slaughtered in Great Britain in the last two years because of bTB and it remains one of the biggest threats facing our beef and dairy farmers,” he said.
“People are increasingly recognising and understanding the impact TB has on farms and farming families and the need for it to be dealt with.
“We know that the public have a great deal of empathy and support for farmers and the role they play in producing high quality traceable food. We also understand that the policy is controversial and that some people will never support the culling of badgers – even though it is an essential part of disease eradication.”
Mr Dyer said: “People need to understand what is happening in the English countryside right now, and I think this advert will give them a good idea.”
“We’ve good reason to believe that around one in four people in this country still haven’t heard about the cull. Of those that do know about it, we believe that most are against it, but many more believe the government when they say ‘we don’t have any choice – we have to cull badgers’
The advert was created by JWT London, whose creative director, David Masterman, said: “The situation is horrific, we needed to highlight it in an arresting way”.
The Badger Trust’s legal challenge over the lack of independent monitoring of the pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire was due to be heard in the Court of Appeal on Thursday (October 9).