Wildlife and animal welfare organisations have slammed plans to extend the badger cull pilot in Somerset after the scheme failed to kill the quota of animals required.

Wildlife and animal welfare organisations have slammed plans to extend the the pilot badger cull in Somerset after the scheme failed to kill the quota of animals required.

The company running the Somerset badger cull has applied to Natural England for an extenstion of two to three weeks in order to hit targets.Defra sources admitted yesterday only 850 badgers had been shot in Somerset during the six-week trial – just more than 40% of the original 2,081 target – while the company running the cull had submitted an application to Natural England to extend the cull by two to three weeks to hit the number required.

However, in a written statement to the House of Commons, environment secretary Owen Paterson insisted the scheme had been effective and successful.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) claims the move by Natural England confirms the cull as “ineffective“.

Chief executive Gavin Grant said: “The six-week trials were intended as a way of testing the effectiveness and humaneness of shooting badgers as a means of controlling bovine TB (bTB) in cattle. If they have failed to kill the numbers needed in the set time frame – then surely it can clearly be judged to be ineffective.”

The charity went further to ridicule Mr Paterson’s claim on the BBC that the cull needs to be extended as it is badgers that have “moved the goalposts“.

Mr Grant said: “Not content with blaming the badger for bTB, the Government now sees fit to blame the species for this ineffective and badly thought out cull. Frankly this whole situation is a farce. They keep moving the goalposts on how many badgers exist and how many need to be killed, but whatever the figures, it is clear the system has failed.”

The Badger Trust, meanwhile, said it believes the culls are “collapsing into chaos“, with Government ministers “gerrymandering key scientific conditions”.

Chairman of the trust David Williams said: “This amateurish performance destroys any confidence in the competence of minsters to control bTB by culling by either free shooting or cage trapping and shooting. They will never be able to justify the 25-year assault on a protected species [Mr Paterson] has promised.

“This pantomime is the creation of politics, and ministers should never have even begun on such a grotesque perversion of science.”

Dominic Dyer at Care for the Wild, meanwhile, called any extension to the cull “an inevitable last clutch at the straw” by the Government, and highlights “yet more flaws in a hopeless policy”. He also slammed news the cull targets in both Somerset and Gloucestershire have been scaled down after Defra said previous estimates of badger populations were inaccurate, with the combined cull target for both areas being revised down to 2,600 badgers from 5,000.
Mr Dyer said: “Scientifically, this policy is a disaster. There was only a slim chance it could have any benefit whatsoever in reducing bTB, but the bungling of the figures has shot that out of the water.

“It’s time to end this debacle now and get on with finding a humane and effective way of dealing with bTB.”

It is also understood the scheme in Gloucestershire has applied for an extension. Natural England is yet to respond to both applications.


Image © istockphoto.com/turbohampster
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