Anti-cull campaigners have warned the controversial scheme to rid the UK of bovine TB (bTB) may be extended as the trials are due to come to an end.
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust argued that the number of badgers killed in bTB hotspots may not have reached the required number of kills for the second year.
However, sources at the National Farmers’ Union told the Western Morning News there have not been any problems with numbers killed since the pilots began in Somerset and Gloucestershire last month.
Officials have said they would be “very surprised” to hear the cull was to continue as no request has yet been made to do so. The claims come as a poll commissioned by the anti-cull campaigners reveal nine out of 10 people who express an opinion (89%) want the Government to stop culling badgers and follow the Welsh example of combatting bTB through cattle measures alone.
Mr Dyer said: “It’s a relief the guns have gone quiet, at least for now. We’ll be waiting to see if the Government decides to extend the cull again like it did last year. If it does it will be madness, but not unexpected.
“To keep culling badgers in the face of huge public opposition is outrageous. Our new poll shows seven out of 10 say the cull should be stopped immediately, eight out of 10 believe culling is cruel, and nine out of 10 say the Government should follow the Welsh lead by tackling bTB through cattle measures alone.
“If the Government still extends this cull in spite of that, it is delivering a huge slap in the face to the people of this country.”
The Humane Society UK (HSI UK) has also voiced its disapproval of the cull. Wendy Higgins, communications director, branded the cull as a “miserable failure” after it was revealed that shooters killed 253 badgers in Gloucestershire and 315 in Somerset.
She said: “We are of course mightily relieved that the shooters failed to kill the target number of badgers in Gloucestershire and didn’t exceed the minimum in Somerset, but every animal who died in the cull is an innocent life wasted for a pointless, unscientific and immoral policy.
“For the second year in a row the badger cull has been a miserable failure, not simply because it’s proved ineffective but because it remains scientifically discredited and ethically unsupportable. It’s time for Defra and the NFU to face facts and be honest with both farmers and the public – shooting badgers has been a costly and humiliating distraction that needs to end now.”
Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss was asked at a recent visit to the west country to confirm whether she would consider an extension to this year’s trials. Ms Truss stated she would not comment on the matter while the culls were underway.