DORSET residents have spoken out against the badger cull as part of a new public consultation.

New applications for cull licences are being considered across nine counties, including Dorset.

Members of the public who could be affected by the expansion of the cull were given chance to comment.

Natural England received 81 responses from Dorset.

Concerns were raised about the potential impact on business and tourism due to people avoiding cull areas.

Karin Snellock, of Dorset for Badger and Bovine Welfare, said:"It comes as no surprise that the majority of people in Dorset are opposed to the badger cull.

"People are beginning to realise the detrimental impact this could have on local businesses, and particularly tourism.

"Who wants to go on holiday to the middle of a bloodbath?"

Cllr Jason Osborne, tourism spokesman for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, said: “I have no evidence to believe it would have any impact on tourism at all.”

He added there could be some impact “in the heart of Dorset”, in areas popular with ramblers and walkers.

Simon Cripps, chief executive of the Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “The huge increase in the area of Dorset in which the NFU are seeking to extend the badger cull flies in the face of public opinion, economic sense and scientific reason."

Supporters of the cull believe controlling numbers will help prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

In addition to business concerns related to business and tourism, respondents expressed fears that public safety could be diminished in areas where shooting is taking place, particularly at night.

David George, South West spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union, said: “As far as I know, tourism has not been affected and public safety has not ever been in question, so I do not see how it would affect things.

“We look forward to seeing the policy being rolled out in further areas in due course.”

Figures released by Defra in December stated that 756 badgers were killed in Dorset last year.

An online petition asking for an end to badger culling in Dorset has attracted nearly 4,500 signatures since it was launched in March.