Welsh farmers are risking being sent to prison for up to six months for slaughtering hundreds of badgers illegally.

Entire setts are being targeted each week by farmers frustrated by the delay in implementing a pilot cull in Wales to tackle bovine TB.

West Wales beef farmer, Carwyn Jones, said hundreds of badgers were being slaughtered in Wales every year.

“Things are happening that should not be and it’s not good news for badgers or farmers,” he said.

“The inability of the Welsh Assembly government to make a decision is causing farmers to take rash actions.

“There is a cloak of secrecy because it is illegal, but I know it is happening. People are doing everything possible to avoid the disease but their livelihoods are at risk and there is bound to be frustration.”

West Wales vet Martin Davies agreed: “Badgers are definitely being illegally killed.

“Farmers have lost patience with the authorities. The longer time goes on, the bigger the problem will be in wildlife as well as in cattle.”

Mr Davies said he was concerned that even once the Welsh Assembly government had taken the decision when and where to implement the cull there would be further complications.

Gassing would have to be legally approved and further delay could have consequences for other wildlife, he said.

He added that after a cat had died of TB at Gelli Aur, the Farming Connect and education centre, where TB is present in dairy cows, there were fears about transmission from pets to humans and also from the urine of badgers on playing fields and gardens used by children.

Brian Walters, deputy president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), said: “I won’t condone anyone breaking the law, but I can understand their frustration when nothing is being done to control the disease.

“But I’m not critical of the Welsh Assembly government because they are moving forward more than England.”

Conservationists claim badgers are being wrongly victimised for an illness brought on by modern, intensive farming. Huw Roberts, of the Clwyd Badger Group, said modern farming practices were responsible for spreading TB.