Government chiefs have given the go ahead for supplementary culling of 1,000 badgers to take place in Gloucestershire and Somerset as part of its efforts to clamp down on bovine TB in England.
Natural England confirmed all criteria had been met to allow the two new licences, lasting five years each, to be issued to the companies operating in the areas.
In a letter to the company which will carry out the cull in Gloucestershire, Natural England said the minimum number it should aim to kill was 160 and the maximum was 580.
In Somerset, the minimum was 140 and the maximum 610.
However, critics said the Government’s move was proof badger culling was not working.
Rock star Brian May’s Save Me Trust pointed to findings from the Government’s own Randomised Badger Culling Trial research document which concluded ‘culling badgers can make no appreciable contribution to the control of TB in cattle’.
A spokesman added: “The Government have been unable to come up with a single shred of evidence that the cull is actually working.
“Many sections of the farming community are now acknowledging that culling badgers is a dead-end, and are seeking solutions that directly address the transmission of the disease in the herd, which is now acknowledged by the vast majority of experts in the field as the real prime mechanism for the propagation of Bovine TB – not badgers.
“In the light of current knowledge, the government’s decision to press on with a policy which is already failing, while costing the taxpayer millions of pounds in wasted effort, is extraordinary."
Defra said badger culling was part of its long-term strategy for dealing with the disease in England. This included comprehensive cattle controls, including testing to clear disease from infected herds and movement controls to prevent the disease’s re-introduction.
More information about the supplementary culling