Badger culling – that most inflammatory of topics – is back on the agenda this week. There are reports Defra is set extend its cull programme into five new areas across the South West from the start of next month.

Defra has so far declined to give any detail on locations, but it is understood its cull trial – which started in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset in 2013 in a bid to eradicate bovine TB – will be extended to North and South Devon, North Cornwall, West Dorset and South Herefordshire, with confirmation of the plans expected as early as tomorrow (26 August).

Culling companies have already been selected and marksmen are being trained, according to reports. Defra said this week that culling badgers was part of the government’s “25-year strategy to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries”.

Meanwhile, protest groups have warned that farmers face an unprecedented level of disruption once the cull commences, which could see their route to market essentially blocked.

Those for and against the cull, and with opinions both ways on its effectiveness in eradicating bovine TB, make compelling arguments.

Defra insisted this week that its “comprehensive approach” to eradicating TB – which also includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls and improving biosecurity on farm and when trading – has worked overseas and is supported by the government, Defra chief scientists and leading vets.

Campaigners against the cull state the trial to date has failed to deliver the results it promised, with the shooting of 3,900 badgers costing the taxpayer in excess of £25m, while the number of cattle slaughtered for TB continues to rise both in and around the culling zones.

Protesters have been accused of a range of unedifying and quite frankly horrible actions to get across their point during past culls – including printing contact details of those taking part in the culls online, not to mention harassing farmers and their families. Many were warning this week they would blockade farms in the cull areas.

If past actions are any guide, things could get even nastier once the new culls take place, with protest group Stop the Cull warning this week it would look to increase policing costs by “making the culls expensive”.

In the middle of all this, increasingly desperate dairy and beef farmers warn the disease is destroying their herds and pushing them out of business. And a cursory look at social media shows many farmers are at the end of their tether and in no mood to back down to the protestors.

This looks like a never-ending argument. And the more entrenched each side becomes, the less chance there will be of seeking alternative solutions to the problem of bovine TB.