LANDOWNERS and farmers from West Somerset will be able to apply for licences to pilot the controlled shooting of badgers, designed to tackle the devastating impact of bovine TB.

The 150 to 350 square kilometre area, which lies predominantly in West Somerset but also stretches into Taunton Deane, has been selected as one of the most suitable to pilot the policy.

The disease forced the slaughter of 25,000 cattle in 2010 and will cost taxpayers £1billion over the next 10 years if not dealt with.

Agriculture minister Jim Paice said: “Bovine TB is a chronic and devastating disease. It causes the slaughter of tens of thousands of cattle each year, and is taking a terrible toll on our farmers and rural communities.

“Nobody wants to cull badgers, but no country in the world where wildlife carries TB has eradicated the disease in cattle without tackling it in wildlife too.

“These two pilots are just part of a wide range of activity on bovine TB.”

Natural England will assess applications against a strict set of criteria, and if these are not met licences will not be granted.

The pilots are to take place over a six-week period, expected to begin in early autumn.

Beth Tranter tweeted: "It's an absolute disgrace and so unnecessary."

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