The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has said they are alarmed at news that Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have given to go ahead for new badgers culls to take place in five areas. The culling of badgers is part of the governments strategy to combat the spread of bovine TB.

The RSPCA said they are renewing calls for the culls to be stopped and that the government should seek "a more proactive approach" focusing on "better cattle control measures" and a focus on cattle husbandry.

Assistant director of public affairs at the RSPCA, David Bowles, said they were "saddened but unsurprised" at the BBC report but that the extension of the culls was "alarming", "especially when the last three years of culls have been such a failure, often missing targets such as numbers to be killed. This action is flying in the face of public and scientific opinion.

"We remain firmly opposed to plans for a widespread cull because we have not seen any evidence that the pilot culls have succeeded in reducing bovine TB in the cull areas and we have serious concerns about the humaneness of the culling methods used.

"The RSPCA, along with many other animal welfare and veterinary organisations and scientific experts, has always maintained that culling is not the answer to solving the devastating problem of bovine TB. In fact it is more likely to make the problem worse.

Badger in the woods
Badger culls are planned for south Devon, north Devon, north Cornwall, west Dorset, and south Herefordshire from September 2016 Reuters

"We don't believe an extension of the badger cull will solve the problem of bovine TB in cattle. It ignores all the scientific evidence that indicates a cull will not achieve this.

"Whilst the RSPCA agrees action is needed to deal with bovine TB we do not believe culling badgers is an effective way to achieve this. Methods need to be based on available scientific evidence and expert opinion. Alternatives include stricter controls on the movement of cattle, increased levels of cattle testing, improved biosecurity, and vaccination once supplies of the vaccine become available. These are having an impact in Wales where culling does not occur."

On Tuesday 23 August the BBC reported that though DEFRA would not confirm that any selections had been made, the news agency understood that culling companies had been selected and marksmen trained ready for a September start in south Devon, north Devon, north Cornwall, west Dorset, and south Herefordshire.

Badgers culls as part of the attempt to eradicate bovine TB have taken place around the UK since 2013, though initial plans to expand the culls were reversed in 2014 after an independent assessment found them to be ineffective and inhumane.