THE badger cull is underway in Dorset, Defra has confirmed.

In an updated statement released on Thursday, the government department confirmed that the shooting of badgers has begun in the three counties where culling is taking place.

It is one of a number of methods being used to tackle the spread of Bovine TB.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “England has the highest incidence of TB in Europe and that is why we are taking strong action to deliver our 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries.

“This includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, vaccinating badgers in the buffer zone around high-risk areas, and culling badgers where the disease is rife.

“Our approach of dealing with the disease in cattle and wildlife has worked overseas and is supported by leading vets.”

The move has been criticised by wildlife campaigners, the Dorset Wildlife Trust and rock star Brian May has vowed to mount a legal challenge against the cull through his charity the Save Me Trust.

But farmers in Dorset are said to be relieved that something is being done to tackle the disease.