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Princess Anne: Badgers should be gassed

The Princess Royal has suggested that gassing the animals could be the most humane way of controlling them
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Princess Anne has intervened in the badger cull debate by controversially claiming that gassing the animals is the most humane way of controlling them.

The Princess Royal waded into the issue after the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced controversial pilot badger culls will continue in Somerset and Gloucestershire this year, although they will not be rolled out to other areas.

Mr Paterson noted last year gassing badgers was being considered but would only be used if proven to be safe, humane and effective.

She told BBC’s Countryfile programme, which will be broadcast on Sunday, that gassing the animals was the most effective way of dealing with tuberculosis among cattle.

But her comments were dismissed as ill-informed during a discussion on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, where Princess Anne was quoted as saying: "If we want to control badgers, the most humane way of doing it is to gas them."

Dr Rosie Woodroffe, from the Zoological Society of London, told Today that gassing badgers proved ineffective when used as a policy in the 1970s.

"Setts would be gassed and then opened up again by the badgers again and again and again, and the problem seemed to be that badger setts are built to hold warm air in and keep cold draughts out so it's very difficult to achieve lethal concentrations of gas and some lethal concentrations of gas are inhumane," she said.

"That's why ministers banned gassing in 1982.

"It's tempting to think it might be easier to kill badgers when they're basically a sitting target underground but it turns out from reports done in the '70s that it's not just that straightforward."

In November the Princess Royal argued the case for eating horsemeat by suggesting that owners would take better care of their animals if they believed they could profit from them after their death.

"Should we be considering a real market for horsemeat and would that reduce the number of welfare cases if there was a real value in the horsemeat sector?" she asked the World Horse Welfare Organisation.

"I chuck that out for what it's worth because I think it needs a debate."