The UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is on course to declare half of England TB-free by 2019, according to Environment Secretary Liz Truss.

This is because DEFRA's 25-year strategy is making real progress, she said.

"Bovine TB is the biggest threat we face and I am 100% committed to defeating it. We’re on course to declare half of England TB-free by 2019.

"That success is in large part due to the efforts of farmers who have gone out night after night, often in the face of blatant intimidation, to make the badger cull a success.

"Thanks to them, all three culls - in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset - met their targets in 2015. It is these farmers who are giving hope to a whole industry."

But, Truss said this is no time to ease off and she wants to see culling expanded across a wider number of areas this year.

The Chief Veterinary Officer’s advice is that this is the only way to secure the full benefits of our comprehensive strategy, she said.

"And we will fund an expanded TB advisory service that farmers have been calling for so it is available throughout the high-risk and edge areas.

"Whatever our opponents may say, we know we are doing the right thing. We are pursuing a strategy that has worked in Australia and is working in Ireland and New Zealand."

Truss said that DEFRA will not rest until we have eradicated this devastating disease.

"Bovine TB is one of the many challenges this industry faces. And I recognise these are not easy times.

"That is why this next year is such a vital period. We will need to work closely together to make sure farming has the confident and profitable future it deserves."