badger cull
Badger cull resumes in Gloucestershire and Somerset. Andreas-photography

The badger cull has resumed in Gloucestershire and Somerset for the second year, with animal rights groups condemning the move by the government.

The four-year cull aims to destroy 70% of the initial population of badgers to establish how effective, safe and humane the practice could be. It was launched to reduce the cases of bovine TB among cattle.

However, scientific evidence suggests the cull is ineffective at reducing the spread. In 1997, a 10-year study was launched to find out if randomised badger culling is effective. The report found that after four years of culling, there was only a small drop in bovine TB.

"Badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better," the report said.

Protesters also say the destruction of badgers is not effective or humane – badgers are shot on site and, according to experts, many are not fatally wounded and suffer immensely as a result.

Ander Guest, chairman of the National Farmers' Union say the cull will prevent the spread of TB in cattle, while environment secretary Elizabeth Truss defended the government's plan as "comprehensive".

Condemning the restart of the cull, Mark Jones, a vet and executive director of Humane Society International UK, said: "I am appalled and saddened that this cruel and pointless waste of badgers' lives is taking place once more in England.

"Neither Defra nor Natural England appear to have learned anything from last year's events: independent scientific advice that killing badgers is a waste of time has been eschewed, independent oversight of the culls abandoned, kill targets have been set without an accurate idea of actual badger numbers, and farmers continue to be misled into thinking that killing these animals will help solve bovine TB when all the evidence points to the contrary.

"While Wales continues to get a grip on this disease without harming a single badger, here in England ministers are set on appeasing those who would rather shoot innocent animals than focus on cattle-based measures that worked back in the 1950s and 1960s, and are working so well in Wales today."