Culling of badgers to tackle tuberculosis in cattle has been given the go-ahead in two pilot areas for a second year.
Natural England has issued authorisation letters for a new round of culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset, confirming that the criteria for allowing the second year of the four-year schemes had been met.
Under the terms of the authorisation letters, the companies carrying out the culls will have to kill a minimum number of badgers –some 615 in Gloucestershire and 316 in Somerset. A maximum number of badgers that the licensed companies can cull has also been set – 1,091 in Gloucestershire and 785 in Somerset.
Six weeks of culling between June 1 and January 31 each year are allowed under the licences, with those carrying out the cull deciding on the start date.
The Government and farmers insist that culling is necessary to tackle TB in livestock, which saw more than 26,000 cattle slaughtered in England last year, but opponents say it is inhumane and ineffective and alternatives such as vaccination should be pursued.
The authorisation letters from Natural England have been issued as the High Court considers a challenge brought by the Badger Trust against the Government’s decision to dispense with monitoring of the cull by the independent expert panel.