Badger culling has been rolled out to five new parts of England in a bid to tackle TB in cattle, the Government has confirmed.
Five additional licences have been granted for culls, with operations "now under way" across the following counties:
It brings the cull to Devon, Cornwall and Herefordshire for the first time.
The move, which comes following trial cull schemes in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset, is part of the Government's 25 year strategy to tackle TB in cattle, which can catch the disease from badgers.
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...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.
DEFRA says that the move is to combat the devastating effects the disease has on farmers' livelihoods. Bovine TB costs taxpayers over £100m every year and England has the highest incidence of the disease in Europe.
In 2015 over 28,000 cattle had to be slaughtered in England to control the disease, causing devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities.
However, the trial culls were also widely condemned by some campaign groups, who say it is not a viable method to control the disease.
Killing badgers is not only disastrous for badgers, but it's also calamitous for cattle and a dead end for farmers, because all the unbiased scientific opinion suggests that we'll never get rid of bovine TB this way. Instead of shooting badgers, we need to be looking to Wales as an example, where no culling takes place, but instead rigorous TB testing, strict cattle movement control and tight biosecurity has been more successful in preventing the spread of TB in cattle.