Controversial proposals for badger culls can go ahead later this year after final licence conditions were met, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson confirmed today.
The targeted culls are planned for two sites on Exmoor, West Somerset and the Tewkesbury area of West Gloucestershire.
Mr Paterson revealed that an area in Dorset will be prepared as a reserve in case one of the existing licensed cull areas is unable to proceed.
Speaking at the National Farmers Union (NFU) annual conference, Mr Paterson announced that authorisation letters have been issued by Natural England confirming the culls can proceed this summer.
"Bovine TB is spreading at an alarming rate and causing real devastation to our beef and dairy industry," he said. "The authorisation letters issued today confirming culling can proceed this summer is an important step towards taking the action we need to tackle the spread of this disease in wildlife.
"I am determined that there are no further delays this year. That is why we have taken the sensible step with the farming industry to elect a reserve area that can be called upon should anything happen to prevent culling in Somerset or Gloucester.
"These pilot culls are just one part of our approach to control and eradicate this dreadful disease. We are using everything at our disposal to get to grips with TB including new tougher controls on moving cattle, increased herd testing and working to get effective vaccines ready as soon as possible."
For more see Thursday's Western Morning News.