NEW licences have been issued to continue badger culling in Gloucestershire in a bid to tackle bovine TB – sparking renewed fury among anti-cull critics.

Additional licences for badger culling have been issued by the government for parts of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

The controversial method of tackling the disease has taken place in the county since 2013 and is part of the government’s 25-year eradication programme.

The government’s new farming minister George Eustice said the long-term plan to eradicate the disease was working.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Farmers and ministers welcomed the announcement, but anti-cull campaigners say culling is cruel and ineffective and want the focus to be on other measures such as vaccinations for badgers and livestock.

Molly Scott Cato, Stroud’s Green MEP for South West England, responded angrily to news.

She said that independent scientific evidence commissioned by the government had revealed the cull to be “nothing more than mass cruelty supported by bad science”.

“In an area like the South West, where farmers are so deeply affected by this disease, we need effective and scientifically grounded policy, not political performance,” she said.

“While TB infections are continuing to rise in the existing cull areas, in Wales, which uses scientifically supported techniques including rigorous TB testing, tighter controls on cattle movement, and strict biosecurity measures instead of inhumane culling, there has been a 14 per cent reduction.”

Last year targets were to cull a minimum of 265, and a maximum of 679 badgers to try and stop the spread of the disease.