Shooting badgers in parts of Britain affected by bovine tuberculosis, which is proposed as a control technique, may be harder to carry out humanely than ministers realise, says the RSPCA.
The disease is transmitted between cattle, between badgers, and between the two species. The Government is consulting over plans to issue licences to farmers who wish to cull badgers. But the animals' anatomy and behaviour make them harder targets to kill with a single shot than foxes or deer, a fact made clear to ministers in a report by the Game Conservancy Trust, says the RSPCA. It alleges that if the shooting campaign goes ahead, many badgers will be wounded, not killed.
Colin Booty, the RSPCA's deputy head of wildlife, said: "Shooting badgers might be very different from shooting foxes, say, because their anatomy is very different. The badger has a very thick skull, thick skin and a very thick layer of subcutaneous fat. It has a much more robust skeleton than the fox. Because of the short, squat body and the way its legs work, these legs often partly conceal the main killing zone. Free shooting carries a high risk of wounding."
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