More time to cull badgers
The controversial pilot badger cull in Somerset will continue for another three weeks, it was announced last night.
Natural England revealed it had granted an extended licence to the culling companies until November 1.
A similar application for the cull in Gloucestershire has also been submitted.
It said that the criteria have been met to allow the controversial culling operation - designed to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis - to continue.
The pilot badger culls on Exmoor and in West Gloucestershire have been one of the most divisive issues to hit the rural West this century.
Natural England said the new licence authorises a three-week control operation to be carried out this autumn and supplements that authorised under the original four-year licence granted in October last year.
Under the original licence 850 badgers were culled during a six-week period which ended earlier this week - that was far less than pro-cull supporters had hoped would be shot.
The new licence allows the licensee to continue culling and specifies a minimum number of 165 and a maximum number of 282 to deliver disease control benefits while reducing the risk of local extinction.
The application to extend culling in west Gloucestershire will be processed in due course.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson received widespread mocking this week with his claim in parliament that he hadn't moved the goalposts, the badgers had.
The efficiency of the free-shooting method of culling employed at the start of the six-week cull has been called into question.
Part-way through the cull cages were brought into the cull zones to trap badgers before they were shot.
This method is considerably more expensive to operate and anti-cull activists claim it demonstrates the original cull has failed and there is no justification to continue a trial.