Ministers and civil servants involved in the Government's controversial badger cull policy have been placed under extra security to protect against the threat from animal rights extremists, MPs have been told.
Former agriculture minister Sir Jim Paice revealed the special security arrangements as he defended the plans for pilot culls of the wild animals to help protect cattle from bovine TB.
Sir Jim, who lost his post in last month's reshuffle, said ministers and officials involved in the policy had been the subject of threats.
The former minister insisted it was "absurd" to claim that alternatives to the two pilot culls such as vaccination had not been properly considered.
He told the Commons: "The whole House must accept that no minister from any political party is going to want to court the unpopularity or indeed the security challenge."
Sir Jim said that he and "other ministers who are involved in this and officials are all under special security arrangements because of the threats from a small minority of opponents about this".
He told MPs: "None of us want any of that and if there was a better way we would adopt it. So to pretend that somehow we are not interested in vaccines, I have to say is absurd."
The two pilots, in Somerset and west Gloucestershire, were postponed until next year earlier this week after delays and the discovery that badger numbers were higher than expected.