A Ramsbottom woman who contracted bovine TB and was confined to a hospital bed for nearly two years has spoken out in favour of the controversial badger cull.

Brenda Barnes, now aged 81, contracted the illness at the age of 22 after drinking infected, unpasteurised milk.

Months later she was told that if the disease had not been detected, she would either have died or been paralysed.

Under proposals, about 5,000 badgers are to be shot in the South West of England in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease.

Bovine TB can be spread from badger to cattle through urine or faeces, but cows can also pass the disease on to other members of the herd.

Campaigners say the cull will be ineffective and have no impact on the disease, arguing that cattle-to -cattle transmission is more common, and that it will destroy communities of badgers in an inhumane way.

Mrs Barnes was living in London with her husband, Derek, and bought the milk from a local shop, and later fainted while travelling on the London Underground.

She said: “I was standing on the tube going to work, and I was looking at this man and thought, I couldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, but he helped me up and got me a seat and then took me to work. I never got chance to thank him properly.”

Mrs Barnes was admitted to hospital aged 22, and left two months before her 25th birthday.

The illness was so debilitating she could not leave the hospital bed, and after being discharged, she had to wear two steel plates fitted to her spine, and had to learn to walk again.

Mrs Barnes, who has four children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, says human life should be prioritised to prevent the spread the disease spreading. She said: “I love animals, don’t get me wrong. I have had dogs, cats, rabbits, you name it, but I would rather they cull the badgers than people suffer what I went through.”

Bovine tuberculosis can infect humans mainly through drinking unpasteurised milk or dairy products. In rarer cases, infection can occur if people come into close contact with animals and inhale aerosol droplets containing bacteria.

Mrs Barnes, originally from Shaw in Oldham, moved to London in her early 20s and moved to Ramsbottom in 1997.

She was married to Derek for 50 years before he died in 2009.

The current badger cull in the South West is a pilot scheme, and the Government may extend it across the country if it is successful.