Licences have been granted for badger culling in 11 new areas – including in Dorset – as part of efforts to control tuberculosis in cattle, the Government has announced.

Culls will go ahead in new areas in Avon, Cheshire, Cornwall, Staffordshire, Devon, Dorset, Herefordshire and Wiltshire, under licences published by Natural England.

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

Expansion of the cull, aimed at preventing transmission of the disease to livestock, was met with anger by wildlife campaigners, who said it would mean tens of thousands more badgers being killed from Cornwall to Cumbria.

Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust, criticised the Government signing off on "the largest destruction of protected species in living memory".

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."

It comes after an independent review commissioned by the Government of its strategy for tackling TB in livestock amid ongoing controversy about badger culling warned against an "over-emphasis" on the role of wildlife.

Professor Sir Charles Godfray, who led the review, said spread of the disease between cattle was a bigger part of the problem than badgers and farmers must do more to tackle the spread of tuberculosis between livestock.

Experts involved in the review last year suggested the totality of the evidence on badger culling showed a real but modest effect in curbing TB.

Mr Eustice said the Government would be responding to the review in the near future.

Ellie Brodie, senior policy manager at The Wildlife Trusts, said: "Evidence shows that badgers are not the primary cause of the spread of TB in cattle and that the primary route of infection is from cow-to-cow contact - so a vaccine for cattle should be a government priority."

She said Wildlife Trusts had been and would continue to vaccinate badgers on their reserves and in partnership with vets, farmers and landowners.