Badger Cull Extension

October 9, 2013 by  

Badger Cull Extension, A failure to kill enough badgers has forced those behind England’s controversial cull to seek an extension of the night-time shoots in a last-ditch attempt to make up the numbers.

Culling is intended to curb the rise of tuberculosis in cattle, but experts have warned that dragging out the killing gives more opportunity for badgers to flee the gunmen and could increase TB infections.

“I would stop the culls now,” said the UK’s leading badger expert, Prof Rosie Woodroffe. “They have failed to meet the legal licensing target. There are now many serious questions about this whole approach to TB control.”

Ministers will issue a written statement to parliament on Wednesday but no response to the latest developments was made available on Tuesday evening. Environment secretary Owen Paterson has argued the cull is an essential part of TB control but leading scientists have dismissed the policy as “mindless” and a “costly distraction” from improving vaccination and controls on cattle movements.

Official sources in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have revealed that the estimates of badger populations in the Somerset and Gloucestershire cull zones have had to be slashed again after recent surveys, fulfilling the warnings of scientists that it is very hard to get good estimates for the numbers of the nocturnal, sett-dwelling animals.

Those estimates are central to setting a minimum number of badgers to be killed and a decade-long, £50m trial of badger culling showed such targets are vital because a failure to rapidly kill large numbers of badgers led to increased TB infections as animals fled, an effect called perturbation.

Natural England, the cull licensing body, set the minimum number of badgers to be killed in Somerset at 2,100, or 70% of the total. But Defra sources said only 1,450 badgers were now believed to exist in the area.

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