A second year of badger culling has begun in Somerset and Gloucestershire. The controversial four-year scheme is part of measures to prevent the spread of bovine TB in cattle.
This is vital for the future of our beef and dairy industries, and our nation's food security. At present we have the highest rates of bovine TB in Europe. Doing nothing is not an option and that is why we are taking a responsible approach to dealing with bovine TB.
Last year 921 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire and 940 were shot in Somerset. Neither pilot managed to kill the 70% of the badger population thought to be needed to make the cull effective in reducing TB in cattle herds in the area.
In Somerset 65% of the badger population was killed and in Gloucestershire the figure was 40%.
A new badger vaccination scheme has been announced as part of efforts to eradicate bovine TB in England.
Rural Affairs Secretary Elizabeth Truss launched the new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS) as part of the Government’s strategy to make England bovine TB-free by 2038.
The scheme will support badger vaccination projects in the middle of the country such as Cheshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire, which are most at risk from the disease spreading from areas such as the South West and West Midlands.
An early spring and a "wonderful growing season" is set to deliver autumn fruit crops around two weeks early, experts have said.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said its orchard at Wisley, Surrey, was seeing early ripening of berries and fruits such as apples and pears, and that most gardeners should be in line for an excellent crop.
RHS chief horticultural adviser Guy Barter said: "Everything is running a little bit ahead, though the cold nights we've been having will push it back a bit.
"The whole season has been early, it's been a wonderful growing season, with no frosts, good weather and here we are with autumn approaching and fruits ripening."