Six new areas apply for badger cull licences
Up to six new areas have come forward to apply for licences to cull badgers in a bid to curb the spread of bovine TB.
The cull was extended to Dorset last year after pilots in Gloucestershire and Somerset, but now applications for more culls have been lodged.
Twenty-nine applications have been received with six new areas in Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
Details of where and when the culls will be planned have not yet been released.
The government said last year's cull was a success, but protesters say there is no evidence killing badgers reduces the level of TB in cattle.
Dorset Wildlife Trust believes there are better ways of controlling the disease, such as badger vaccination.
Dr Simon Cripps, chief executive of the trust, said: "It is a great shame there are more applications for badger cull areas when the culls to-date have been failures.
"The National Farmers Union (NFU) would be better putting their efforts into getting cattle vaccination legalised in Europe so this problem can finally be solved."
NFU President Meurig Raymond has welcomed the new applications.
He said: "Bovine TB is endemic across the South West of England, large parts of the Midlands and beyond. It is vital we do everything we can to tackle this disease to stop it spreading further and causing more misery for farming family businesses.
"Only by using every option at our disposal will we stand a chance of controlling and eradicating this devastating disease and achieving what everybody wants - a TB free England.
"The fact that so many areas have expressed an interest shows how widespread the TB problem is and how urgently it needs to be dealt with."
England's badger cull:
- Badgers are shot as part of efforts to protect cattle from bovine tuberculosis (TB)
- Badgers are thought to pass on the disease to cattle through their urine, faeces or through droplet infection, in farmyards or in pastures
- TB presents a serious problem for the cattle industry, causing financial and personal hardship for farmers
- Cattle are regularly tested for TB and destroyed if they test positive
- There is a vaccine for badgers - the BCG jab - but it is not effective in badgers or cattle that are infected with TB