A BADGER cull is underway in Cheshire, after a licence was granted by the Government.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today, Monday, announced that Cheshire was one of eleven new regions to be granted a licence, taking the total to 21.

During the open season, which runs between June 1 and January 31, between 563 and 764 badgers will be killed in a bid to prevent the spread of bovine Tuberculosis (TB).

The newly-acquired licence is valid through to January 2021.

Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens said: “Taking action to prevent bovine TB infection of cattle from the reservoir of disease in local badger populations is an essential part of the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease in England.

“Proactive badger control is currently the best available option and the licensing of further areas is necessary to realise disease control benefits across the High Risk Area of England, rather than at local levels.”

A list of ‘persons authorised to take or kill badgers’ has not been made public.

Jayne Blyhte, a spokesman for Cheshire Against the Cull, told the Guardian: "We are devastated and angry. It was not a complete surprise, but we were holding on to that bit of hope that it wouldn't come to Cheshire.

"We have been out surveying and we know our area very well. We will get a patrol set up and keep a high visibility presence out there. We've had tremendous support.

"The cull is not working, it's not cost effective, and we are not going away. We will try to protect the Cheshire badger as much as can."

Defra has also relaunched its Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme.

Jonathan Bartley, Green Party co-leader, said: “The badger cull is not only inhumane but ineffective.

"There is very little evidence to support the government’s claims that the cull will prevent the spread of TB, but as the science against the badger cull gets stronger, the Government simply expands the cull every year.

"One of Britain’s most beloved animals is being pushed to the brink of extinction - it’s unsustainable, cruel and expensive, costing taxpayers £40 million over the last four years.

“The fact the vaccinations programme is being reintroduced shows that the Government accepts there are alternatives to the cull, making it all the more pointless and barbaric.

“It’s time to end this cruel approach and fully roll out a humane vaccinations programme for both badgers and cows, and introduce rigorous TB testing and strict biosecurity measures. We must also tackle the intensification of farming which worsens the spread of TB.”

Farming minister George Eustice said: “Bovine TB not only has a devastating impact on our beef and dairy farms, but causes harm and distress to infected cattle.

“We have a clear plan to eradicate the disease over the next 20 years and this year we are restarting the government-backed Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme to stop the disease spreading to new areas.

“Vaccination is just one part of our comprehensive strategy, which also includes tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where bTB is rife to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife.

“While our eventual aim is to eradicate the disease completely, farmers are facing the reality of bTB on their farms every day, which is why we are also launching a new bTB Advisory Service to offer advice to all farmers on limiting on-farm disease risk.”