Paterson cut short his official visit to SIAL, the trade show in Paris, in light of the announcement, which is believed to have come about after new figures revealed there were more badgers in the "kill zones" than previously thought.
The original number of badgers expected to be killed in the pilot zones of Somerset and Gloucestershire totalled 1,300. However, new figures released last week saw the estimation quadruple to 5,530.
When these new figures were released (19 October), David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “Can David Heath, the farming minister, explain how he gave estimates of between 500 and 800 badgers in each of the pilot areas only last Friday (12 October) on the BBC Today programme?
“This massive discrepancy means that free shooting, if it comes about, will be significantly more difficult. It will also be harder to achieve the necessary minimum of 70% killed as demanded by Defra. If they kill too few, which is now even more likely, they will fail to achieve the benefit they strive for. Alternatively, if they kill too many they risk local extinction and a breach of the Bern Convention”.
Both the National Farmers Union and Defra maintain their support for the badger cull and although a Defra spokeswoman said she could not comment further, she told MeatInfo.co.uk: "It is still being carried out and we are still committed to the badger cull."