Badger cull falls short of its target in Gloucestershire

Badger cull falls short of its target in Gloucestershire

Company seeks extension as marksmen manage to kill only 30% of population against a target of 70% in alloted six weeks

The number of badgers killed in Gloucestershire as part of a cull by farmers and government to curb bovine tuberculosis in cattle has fallen well short of its target.

Just 708 badgers, or 30% of the population in the cull zone, have been killed during the past six weeks. The initial target was 2,900 badgers, or 70% of the population.

The figures comes a week after ministers admitted they had also missed the target in the other cull zone, in Somerset, leading environment secretary, Owen Paterson to claim that the “badgers were moving the goalposts” because population estimates had been revised downwards from last year, when the culls were inititally planned.

Badger cull

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs put the Gloucestershire zone’s badger population at 3,644 in autumn last year, but that has been revised down to 2,350. But even with that new lower figure, the cull has only killed 40% rather than 70%.

Hitting the targets is key to reduce the incidences of bovine TB – a previous decade-long trial showed that if fewer than 40% of badgers were killed, the number of infections could actually increase as badgers fled the culling and came into contact with cattle.

Paterson said in a written ministerial statement on Thursday: “I have always been clear that both the Somerset and Gloucestershire culls are pilots. This has enabled us to test the safety, humaneness and effectiveness of controlled shooting as a means of reducing badger numbers and so reduce significantly disease in cattle. Having the two separate pilot areas has similarly enabled us to see how different environmental factors, field and other conditions affect the practical delivery of our objectives. Experience gained on the ground has been invaluable.”

The company that manages the marksmen will now apply for an extension to the Gloucestershire cull. Last Friday, the Somerset cull was granted an extension of three weeks.

More than half of the British public deem the pilot culls to be a failure, according to a YouGov poll of 1,805 adults published on Wednesday and commissioned by the Humane Society International, which found just 15% thought the culls had been a success.

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