Government agency Natural England has issued badger culling licences for 11 additional areas, alongside re-authorising licences for 33 areas of the country where culling has already taken place in previous years.

The latest expansion of the cull comes despite the Government signalling its intention earlier this year to phase out intensive badger culling in the next few years as part of its efforts to control TB in livestock, which can catch the disease from the wild animals.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Bovine TB is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that the UK faces today, causing considerable trauma for farmers and costing taxpayers over £100 million every year.

“No one wants to continue the cull of a protected species indefinitely. That is why we are accelerating other elements of our strategy, including vaccination and improved testing so that we can eradicate this insidious disease and start to phase out badger culling in England.”

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The new culls will take place in parts of Avon, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Lincolnshire.

The licences mean up to 70,000 badgers could be killed this year across much of England.

Bovine TB remains the greatest animal health threat that England faces today, with more than 30,000 cattle slaughtered each year due to infection.