via BBC News
The first licence allowing farmers to shoot badgers in an attempt to reduce cattle TB is to be issued on Monday.
The licensing body, Natural England, said the cull would go ahead in Gloucestershire, where cases are high.
Ministers are pressing ahead with plans to cull badgers in two areas of the South West, amid pressure from farmers.
The science behind the culls is uncertain; a decade-long scientific trial of badger culling concluded there were only modest benefits.
Some wild badgers can become infected with the bacteria that causes bovine TB, and pass the infection on to cattle.
Natural England is about to issue the licence for Gloucestershire, while a second, for Somerset, is still being assessed.
A spokesperson told BBC News, “One will issued later today for the Gloucestershire area.”
The licenses will allow farmers to shoot up to 70% of badgers in the pilot zones.
The first cull is expected to begin with days or weeks in a precise area of West Gloucestershire which is being kept secret.
The cull, which is being paid for by the farmers taking part, will allow the shooting of free-running badgers.
Animal welfare and wildlife campaigners have opposed the cull, but lost their fight in the High Court last week.
Defra says the action is necessary to protect cattle from bovine TB, which leads to the slaughter of thousands of cattle each year.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We will continue to work with the farming industry so badger control in two pilot areas can start as soon as is practical.
“No one wants to cull badgers but last year bovine TB led to the slaughter of over 26,000 cattle and to help eradicate the disease it needs to be tackled in badgers.”
Plans to begin culling in Wales were recently abandoned in favour of a vaccination policy. There are no proposals to cull badgers in Scotland, where TB incidence is low.