Only one of four slaughtered badgers tested for TB during badger cull actually had the disease

Tests are not routinely being carried out, however

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Only one of four slaughtered badgers tested for bovine TB during the course of the badger cull actually had the disease, the government has admitted.

Ministers announced the cull in 2012, arguing the move would make life easier for cattle farmers, some of whom blame the creatures for infecting their herds.

Most badgers killed during the course of the cull are not tested to see whether they were actually carrying the disease, however.

Only four carcasses have been checked, at the specific request of landowners. Of those, only one was confirmed infected.

“During the culls, four badger carcasses were tested on occasion at the specific request of landowners. The tests were carried out by independent veterinary surgeons. Of the four carcasses, one carcass was confirmed to be infected with Bovine TB,” environment minister George Eustice said.

The figure is broadly in line with the results of an earlier government-backed random-controlled trial conducted between 1998 and 2005 which looked at areas where cattle were particularly afflicted by bovine TB.

That study found that two thirds of badgers were disease-free in those highly affected areas.

Figures released in December showed that badger cullers were having difficulty reaching their targets.

274 of the animals were were killed in Gloucestershire, compared to the minimum target of 615. In Somerset 316 were killed compared to a minimum target of 341.

In a statement at the time, Environment Secretary Liz Truss said: “The results in Gloucestershire reflect the challenges of extensive unlawful protest and intimidation.”

Last year the the Government was accused of using "underhand" tactics to push through the cull while ignoring evidence against its effectiveness.

Ministers also confirmed last week that the cull had cost a total of £4.9m to police since 2013.