DORSET Wildlife Trust says it is “shocked and saddened” to hear that the areas where badger culling will take place in Dorset this year will be increased.

As reported, a new round of badger culling to tackle tuberculosis in cattle has been given the go ahead with more licences granted.

Culling will be carried out in 21 areas in England, including 11 additional licences for badger control covering parts of Devon, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset and Cheshire.

The Government said it was also restarting a badger vaccination programme to stop spread of the disease to new areas.

And a new advisory service for farmers that will provide advice on farms, by phone and email, to livestock owners in areas at high risk or on the edge of the areas suffering the disease, is being launched in the autumn.

The Government has committed to rolling out culling to more areas, saying it is necessary to curb TB in cattle as badgers can transmit the disease to livestock, but opponents say it is inhumane and ineffective and vaccinations should be pursued instead.

DWT says it is concerned that the Government “continues to go against scientific advice” which states that culling is unlikely to have a meaningful effect in reducing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle.

A spokesman said: “The continuation and extension of the cull, which we fear will now cover the majority of rural Dorset, will see thousands of badgers killed.

"This is not only unlikely to reduce incidence of bTB, but might make matters worse by disturbing badger populations, resulting in the further possible spread of the disease to cattle.

"In total, 4,258 badgers have been killed in the Dorset culls since they began in 2015, and up to 9,391 could now be killed this year alone.”

DWT, which has its own herd of cattle in west Dorset, believes that badger vaccination in the short-term, implementing effective bio-security on farms, and in the long-term vaccinating cattle, should be pursued as alternatives.

DWT’s Chief Executive, Dr Simon Cripps said, “We call on the Government to establish a full and independent inquiry into whether the culls have achieved their intended outcome in reducing bTB in cattle.”