A total of 9,077 badgers were killed during control operations conducted in 12 areas of Devon over two months in the autumn.

According to a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) report on badger control operations, a total of 4,375 were killed by controlled shooting while 4,702 by cage-trapping across the county between September 3 and November 1.

Earlier this year, DEFRA announced Natural England had licensed farmers and landowners to carry out badger disease control in Devon.

When asked, DEFRA and Natural England declined to provide details of where these areas were in Devon.

In the report, Natural England chief scientist Tim Hill said the operations indicate that ‘industry-led badger control continues to deliver the level of effectiveness required by the policy to be confident of achieving disease control benefits’.

UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said there had been a 50 per cent fall in the number of new confirmed cattle ‘breakdowns’ in the first areas to trial culls.

She said culling should continue in these areas for the duration of existing licences, lasting one or two years.

‘Effective’ culls should be carried out in 2019 and the following two years in 10 other areas for disease control benefits to be realised, she said.

Control operations were also carried out in areas of Devon in 2018.

The latest figures come after an independent review of the tuberculosis (TB) control strategy found farmers must do more to tackle the spread of the disease between cattle, which is a bigger part of the problem than badgers.

Responding to the new figures, Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust, said the cull was a ‘cruel, costly and ineffective policy’.

“This is the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory and it comes after a record breaking summer heat-wave that has already led to a significant reduction in the badger population in England,” he said.

“By the end of 2018, the Government will have spent more than £50 million of public funds killing more than 67,000 badgers which could push the species to the verge of local extinction in areas of England where it has lived since the Ice Age.”