The Government’s badger cull is a “complete failure” and must be halted, animal rights campaigners and Labour demanded after shooting trials failed again to meet targets despite being extended.
The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, played down the results, insisting enough animals were “removed” to suggest a four-year scheme would have “clear benefits” in tackling bovine TB. But he faced claims that in fact the trials could have increased the risk to livestock.
Extra time was allowed in two regions of Somerset and Gloucestershire in an effort to eradicate 70 per cent of the badger population after the initial six-week period proved insufficient to meet the target. Another 90 were killed in Somerset in the period which ended on Friday, Mr Paterson said, taking the total to 940 – an overall fall of only 65 per cent. An eight-week extension is continuing in Gloucestershire, where 708 of an estimated 2,350 badgers – about 30 per cent of the total – were killed in the first shootings.
Paul Wilkinson, head of living landscape at the Wildlife Trusts, said: “This Government continues to ignore the scientific facts. Culling badgers over such a prolonged period and failing to meet the required targets is likely to have worsened the TB situation at a cost of millions of pounds.”