LEAKED documents have revealed that badger culling could double in Oxfordshire this year despite promises that it would be phased out and replaced with a cattle vaccine.

More than 60,000 badgers across England face being killed this autumn according to figures from Natural England in a move that could lead to the 'largest destruction of a protected species in history'.

The leak shows that locally up to 2223 animals could be culled to cut the risk of tuberculosis spread in cattle and humans.

More than 100,000 badgers have been killed since 2013 as part of the scheme, however, the Government announced earlier this year that the controversial practice will begin to be phased out in England over the next few years.

Instead, vaccination of the animals would be ramped up with some counties including Oxfordshire already trialling the method.

Commenting on the documents Julia Hammett, chair of the voluntary group Oxfordshire Badger Group, said: "We believe in the 100 per cent safe, no kill alternative of vaccinating badgers against Bovine Tuberculosis and will continue our positive work to protect wildlife.

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"We offer this service at no cost to landowners and maintain complete confidentiality.

"If the Government were to invest in our programme instead of investing millions of pounds in culling we could expand this service to more landowners who have expressed an interest in vaccinating badgers on their land."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it has not yet granted any licences to cull this year and refused to comment on the documents.

However, a spokesperson for the public body confirmed that an update on the government's strategy is expected to be published in the autumn.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the animal welfare charity Badger Trust highlighted that the move could lead to 'badger extinction'.

Mr Dyer said: "In March, the Government talked of an imminent end to the badger cull policy in favour of badger and cattle vaccination, a view largely accepted by politicians and the public.

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"In reality the Government is now pressing ahead with the largest destruction of a protected species in history.

"This could result in up to 65,000 badgers being killed across 54 areas of England stretching from Cornwall to Cumbria in the next few months."

The OBG urged its members and the public to contact their MPs and call for culling to be replaced with vaccinations in Oxfordshire.

The group has already been carrying out the service for two years.

This involves humanely trapping badgers overnight, vaccinating and releasing, under a licence.

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The OBG also launched a GoFundMe in June to help fund its volunteer badger vaccination programme for a second year.

Almost £1,500 have been raised, however, it requires £3,000 to proceed with its work.

To find out more and donate to the fundraiser visit gofundme.com/f/oxfordshire-badger-group-vaccination-project