Farmers across England are set to be paid a £50 bounty to kill badgers in a roll out of the controversial cull.
Previously, the animals were only allowed to be slaughtered in areas where cows were deemed to be at high risk of bovine TB, which is spread by badgers.
But the Government has announced plans to dramatically extend the programme to allow farmers to kill the animals even in areas where cows are deemed to be at low risk.
The change means that farmers across the country will be able to claim the £50 fee for shooting a badger – far higher than the 21 areas currently able to claim it.
The plan was announced by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which is headed by Michael Gove.
The plan was announced by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which is headed by Michael Gove (pictured in Downing Street last week)
Under the reforms decisions on whether to allow farmers to cull badgers in low risk areas will be taken on a case by case basis.
Last year, more than 19,200 badgers were killed through the badger culling scheme, down from the 39,364 that were killed in 2016, according to The Telegraph.
But the expansion of the cull is hugely controversial and has been opposed by animal rights groups.
And Natural England is facing two legal challenges over the badger cull programme.
The legal action is being led by Tom Langton, an ecology consultant, who has hit out against the ‘bloody purges’ being mounted against badgers.
On his fundraising page he said: ‘Our Government has escalated badger culling in England this autumn on an industrial scale.
Badgers in areas of England deemed at low risk of bovine TB will be culled under new plans unveiled by the Government
‘Badgers are gone from woods, banks and meadows in a growing series of brutal bloody countryside purges.
‘Bags and piles of mostly healthy badgers are mass-slaughtered using your taxes. Resting on dubious science and decisions.
‘The legally required safeguards on English wildlife from removing our top-tier predator remains hidden from us.’
Private companies are given licences by the Government to carry out badger culls.
A Defra spokeswoman told Mail Online that they do not pay farmers directly for killing badgers.
More than 42,000 cows were killed prematurely in 2017 because they tested positively from bovine TB, up from 27,474 in 2014.