The second year of the controversial badger cull trials will resume tonight (September 8, 2014) in bovine TB (bTB) hotspots.

Farming minister George Eustice confirmed this morning on radio programme Farming Today that culling would begin tonight in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

The news has been greeted with anger by animal welfare campaigners, including the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild.

Dominic Dyer, of the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild, said: “These culls are ill-conceived and incompetently managed, and will contribute nothing to reducing bTB in cattle.

“Here we have a Government and the National Farmers’ Union pushing ahead with a policy simply because they don’t have the guts to admit it is wrong, and a complete and utter disaster for the farming industry, tax payer and the protection of our native wildlife.  

“The same discredited arguments are being wheeled out. They say no country has beaten bTB without culling wildlife – not true, the UK did it in the 1960s and 1970s. They say falling bTB rates in Ireland show culling works – but the same reduction has been achieved in Northern Ireland without any culling. They say that ‘closed’ herds are being infected, so it can only be the badgers spreading the disease – but the bTB skin test misses 20% of infected cows, meaning they never know for sure that a herd isn’t hiding a sick cow.

“To cap it all, as the chief veterinary officer for Wales told the Badger Trust conference recently that in the past five years the Welsh Government has achieved a 48% drop in the number of cattle slaughtered due to bTB purely by increasing the amount of testing and thus ensuring sick cattle are less likely to be moved around.

“The answer to this mess is self-evident – focus on the cattle – but the Government is too stubborn to back down. Meanwhile, badgers will die, peaceful protesters will flock to the cull zones, neighbour will turn against neighbour, cattle will continue to contract bTB and farmers will continue to be sold false hope. What a sad and pathetic state of affairs.”

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