WILDLIFE campaigners have said news that a controversial badger cull will not be coming to Dorset is a 'huge relief'.

But culls are to be continued where pilot programmes were carried out last year in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

The news came as part of an announcement by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson following the publication of recommendations by an independent expert panel.

But Dorset - where farmers largely support a cull to combat Bovine TB - could still see culls introduced in 2015 or beyond.

The panel recommended a series of changes to made to improve the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of culling in the existing licensed areas.

The changes will continue to be monitored to assess their impact before further decisions are taken on more badger cull licences.

Mr Paterson said: "The four year culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are pilots and we always expected to learn lessons from them.

"It is crucial we get this right. That is why we are taking a responsible approach, accepting recommendations from experts to make the pilots better.

"Doing nothing is not an option. Bovine TB is a terrible disease which is devastating our cattle and dairy industries and causing misery for many people in rural communities. We need to do everything we can, as set out in our Strategy, to make England TB free.

A spokesman for campaign group Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare said: "News that Dorset will be spared for now is a huge relief for the county and Dorset campaigners have pledged their full support to groups in the cull zones."