THE BBC has reported that the badger cull is to be extended to five new areas.

West Gloucestershire and West Somerset are entering the fourth year of their licences for culling, and Dorset is entering its second year.

According to the BBC, the shooting of badgers will also begin in early September in South Devon, North Devon, North Cornwall, West Dorset and South Herefordshire.

However, a Defra spokeswoman said Natural England was still considering applications for further badger control licences.

She said: "Badger control in areas where TB is rife is one part of our long-term plan, which also includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls and improving biosecurity on farm and when trading."

Responding to the reports Sean Wensley, president of the British Veterinary Association, said control measures in cattle must be accompanied by simultaneous and coordinated control measures in badgers and susceptible farmed species.

"For these reasons," he said, "BVA supports the wider roll-out of culling to carefully selected areas where badgers are regarded as a significant contributor to the high incidence of bovine TB in cattle, through the use of cage trapping and shooting only; we do not support the continued use of controlled shooting as part of the badger control policy."

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said: "We could kill every badger in England but bovine TB would continue to spread in cattle herds, due to inaccurate TB testing, excessive numbers of cattle movements and poor biosecurity controls."

Peter Martin, chairman, said the Government should look to Wales where they had more success through more rigorous TB testing, tighter cattle control and biosecurity measures.

He said: "New TB herd incidents in Wales are down by 14 per cent in the last 12 months and all this has been achieved without culling badgers.

"And as Ireland is also about to abandon its cull policy in favour of vaccination, it is way past time for Defra to do the same."