A new license has been granted that could see more than 2000 badgers culled in Dorset.

Natural England today confirmed the criteria have been met to allow seven new licenses to be issued in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

These are in addition to existing licenses, with the one already in place in Dorset moving in to its second year of culling.

The government said that 28,000 cattle had to be slaughtered in England last year due to bovine TB and these measures will help tackle the problem.

The government’s strategy also includes tighter cattle measures, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where the disease is rife.

The new operations will be carried out under 4-year licenses which will allow culling to take place every year between June 1 and January 31.

One letter authorising culling in Dorset sent by Natural England states that during the open season this year the recipients should aim to kill 390 badgers and that the maximum permitted is 610.

Another authorisation letter for Dorset states that the minimum aim is to kill 1282 with the maximum permitted at 1740.

The recipients of the letters have been blanked out.

If the maximum number of badgers authorised by both letters is carried out it would see 2350 killed.

Farming Minister, George Eustice, said: “Our comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England is delivering results, with more than half the country on track to be free of the disease by the end of this Parliament.

“Bovine TB has a devastating impact on farms, which is why we are taking strong action to eradicate the disease, including tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control measures in areas where the disease is rife.

“The veterinary advice and the experience of other countries is clear—we will not be able to eradicate this disease unless we also tackle the reservoir of the disease in the badger population as well as cattle.”

Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens added: “Action to prevent infection of cattle from significant reservoirs of TB infection in local badger populations is an essential part of the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England.

“Proactive badger control is currently the best available option and the licensing of further areas is necessary to realise disease control benefits at regional rather than at local levels.”