NEARLY 600 badgers are set to be killed in Gloucestershire in a cull which will see more than 1,000 “dispatched swiftly and humanely.”

Natural England issued the licence to kill yesterday, after advice from Defra, in an effort to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis – under section 10(2) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

The license will last until January 31 2022 and has been dubbed “stupid, cruel and pointless” by Stroud District Council deputy leader, Doina Cornell (Lab, Dursley).

“I'm dismayed to hear that the government has sanctioned the killing of more badgers in Gloucestershire,” she said.

“The Labour-led district council has always opposed this pointless and cruel Tory policy.

“We've already seen thousands of badgers slaughtered, at huge cost to the tax payer despite all the scientific evidence that it doesn't help reduce bovine TB.”

From June 1 to November 30 each year Natural England permits the “live-capture cage-trapping and humane despatch of trapped badgers by shooting.”

Meanwhile from June 1 to January 31 it permits controlled shooting.

To take or kill badgers outside of these time periods requires written permission from Natural England.

It has issued strict orders that any shooting must be carried out with a shotgun of no less than 20 bore, “to ensure that such animals are dispatched swiftly and humanely.”

Natural England stated: “The minimum number of badgers that you should aim to kill within the licence area during this open season is 160.

“The maximum number of badgers which may be killed within the licence area by all permitted methods during this open season is 580.”

It has also approved a supplementary cull in Somerset which will see a minimum of 140 badgers killed with a maximum of 610, bringing the total the total across the two counties to 1,190.

The license from Natural England was issued after being issued guidance from Defra.

Defra consulted chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens who advised that culling badgers to maintain the population at a set level was the best way to manage the disease risk of bovine TB.

“Earlier this year we announced plans to licence supplementary badger control in areas that have successfully completed intensive culls, allowing them to maintain disease control benefits for many years to come in line with plans set out in the TB strategy,” a Defra spokesman said.

“Licences for supplementary badger control have been issued for two areas.”

It also stated: “Maximum disease control benefits from badger control will only be realised if comprehensive cattle controls are also rigorously applied, including testing to clear disease from infected herds and movement controls to prevent its re-introduction.”

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust remains strongly opposed to the badger cull stating that the scientific evidence shows that it will not work in controlling the problem of TB in cattle.

However, it sympathises strongly with the plight and pain of farmers in affected areas.

"We are shocked by the announcement that Natural England will be offering those currently holding a badger control license the opportunity to apply to cull badgers for a further five years," said Colin Studholme, the trust's director of conservation.

"This flies in the face of the Government’s own scientific evidence and previous guidance which said that culling would only be ‘necessary’ over a period of four years.

"We believe it is a further admission that the badger cull policy has failed and it contradicts the strong weight of opinion expressed in an earlier consultation on the issue."