LICENCES have been granted for badger culling in 11 new areas - including Dorset.

The Government announced the plans yesterday, to the dismay of campaigners.

The move, alongside the reauthorisation of licences in 29 existing areas, means the controversial cull of the animals will take place in 40 areas across in England.

The Government says the plans form part of ongoing efforts to control tuberculosis in cattle – but campaigners in Dorset say the cull is not working.

Farming minister George Eustice said “Bovine TB remains the greatest animal health threat to the UK, costing taxpayers over £100 million every year as well as causing devastation and distress for hard-working farmers and rural communities.

“There is no single measure that will provide an answer to beating this disease. That is why we have always been committed to a multi-pronged approach including proactive badger control as well as other tools such as tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger vaccination.

“Our strategy in combatting the disease now has an opportunity to look at different methods as part of our response to the Godfray Review. We will fully respond to this review in the near future.”

Ian Mortimer, of the Dorset Badger Vaccination Project, says the move is ‘ridiculous.’

“[The Government] must know by now that this is not working – or at least have its doubts,” he said. “We understand the prevalence of TB has actually gone up in Gloucester – a cull area – but the Government doesn’t seem to be prepared to admit it’s wrong.

“This is not a farmer versus campaigner issue or badgers versus cattle. It’s all of us against TB and we could vaccinate the whole of Dorset tomorrow if the government ever has a rush of common sense.”

Some 62,899 badgers face being shot this autumn.

This is despite a plea from Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, who said: “Nearly 68,000 badgers have been killed in England since 2013 in a failed attempt to lower bovine TB in cattle. Despite an estimated public cost of £50m and huge public concern over the cruelty and scientific effectiveness of this policy, the Government is about to massively expand badger culling in 2019.

“This could result in the killing of over 50,000 badgers in the next two months, pushing this protected species to the verge of local extinction in areas of Britain which it has inhabited since the Ice Age.”