Badger cull extension under fire

Government wishes to extend the Gloucestershire badger cull have come under fire from critics, while the RSPCA has called for a stop to the “fiasco”.

According to figures released by the government in the aftermath of the cull last week, only 708 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire, which means marksmen missed 40% of their original target.

The RSPCA said it was horrified at the figures. It said that only 30% of the target that shooters were set was completed. “This is less than half the minimum 70% target set by the government itself to make sure bovine TB in cattle is not spread further.”

As a result, the government has asked Natural England to extend the cull for a further eight weeks, which is more than double the original period, the RSPCA pointed out.

A “farce”

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said the situation was a “farce before” and said the new figures showed how “off-target” the cull in Gloucestershire had been.

“The government is making a mockery of scientific opinion and their own targets by continuing with this cull – it is a complete shambles,” he claimed. “Badgers are dying in their hundreds and it is likely that bovine TB in cattle in these areas is being made worse not better.”

Grant added that the six-week trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset were intended to be a way of testing the “effectiveness and humaneness” of shooting badgers to control the disease bovine tuberculosis (bTB), “and this has clearly failed”.

As a result, Grant said: “An immediate stop must be put to this fiasco before more animals’ lives are lost and the spread of this devastating disease is made worse.”

Letter from the solicitor

Meanwhile, the Badger Trust said the Prime Minster, the Secretary for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) were “wallowing in even more confusion over killing badgers”.

A spokesman for the Badger Trust Jack Reedy said: “The requested massive extension of the killing period, widely reported for Gloucestershire, more than doubles the original six weeks to 14. This is yet another contemptuous and wilful swipe against science following an extension and gerrymandering with badger populations in Somerset presided over by Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.”

The Trust has recently sent a letter from its solicitor to Natural England and the Defra Secretary, to put a stop to the extension.  

Grant, meanwhile, concluded: “Extending both culls means they will be longer than the period recommended to Defra by a group of scientific experts, based on the original Randomised Badger Culling Trial.”

It was using these recommendations that the current cull methods were developed, so any extension would go against these recommendations and could potentially make the situation worse.


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