Badger cull 'way behind target' in pilot area

Dairy farmer claims that fewer than 100 badgers have been killed in West Somerset in first 10 days of cull - when 500 should already have been destroyed

Environment Editor

A A A

The highly-controversial badger cull is in danger of failing after it emerged that a pilot scheme in West Somerset is killing less than a fifth of the animals it needs to.

Fewer than 100 badgers were culled in the first ten days of the six-week cull in Somerset, which began on 26 August and will run to 6 October, it has emerged.

The toll is well below the minimum target of 2,081 badgers that need to be killed during the course of the trial. It represents less than 20 per cent of the 500 badgers that needed to have been culled in the first ten days to put the operation on track to hit its target.

 “I understand the West Somerset badger cull may be failing to meet its own target, despite [Secretary of State] Owen Paterson’s assurances that the operation is proceeding according to plan,” Derek Mead, an entrepreneur dairy farmer from Weston-super-Mare, told The Western Morning News in Somerset.

“The information I have been given suggests that as at the middle of last week, the number of badgers accounted for was still well below 100,” he added.

Reports suggest that the number of badgers culled could be considerably below 100, with some sources saying only three or four badgers are being shot a day – compared to an average of 50 a day if the trial is to reach its target.

Analysts said that, even if the slow start was partly down to teething problems that are later ironed out, the early data suggests the marksmen will struggle to hit their target.

The target represents 70 per cent of the badgers in the culling zone, a level the government says will effectively reduce the level of bovine tuberculosis without wiping out the local population altogether.

A spokesman for the National Farmers Union declined to comment on the number of badgers that have been culled in Somerset, saying it was too early to draw any firm conclusions either way.

“It is a pilot cull therefore we can’t fully assess the effectiveness until it is completed. It still has some way to go. I would say making such comments could be somewhat premature. We shall have to wait and see,” he said.

Somerset is one of two counties participating in the trial cull, alongside Gloucestershire.

Defra and the National Farmers Union declined to say what would happen if the cull failed to meet its target within the allotted six week period.

However, the low death-count will put a question mark over whether the cull will be extended – as planned - because the trial was set up to determine where the scheme could be conducted safely, humanely and effectively.

The uncertainty about the effectiveness of the cull will add to the controversy surrounding the programme.

Advocates of the programme say the cull will help reduce the amount of bovine TB in badgers which, most scientists agree, help to spread the disease among cattle – at a cost of more than £100m a year to the taxpayer.

However, the many opponents of the programme say that the cull will actually make the problem worse, as fleeing badgers carry the disease to new areas and new badgers colonise the vacated zones.

A source close to Defra said they did not recognise the figures relating to the number of badgers killed in the cull.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor