Gloucester Badger Cull Cut ShortKeith
The pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire will end three weeks early than expected after officials conceded defeat in their attempt to hit targets even after they were significantly reduced.
Culling will end at midday on Saturday after culling contractors informed Natural England that a significant reduction in badger numbers by December 18, when shooting was due to end, was “unlikely”.
The Government will announce the number of animals killed over the period on Monday, but marksmen have failed to hit even the lower targets that were introduced midway through the cull.
The controversial cull, along with another in Somerset, was initially scheduled to last six weeks and was aimed at reducing local badger populations by 70 per cent with the aim of reducing the spread of tuberculosis to cattle.
During that period just 30 per cent of badgers in Gloucestershire were killed, leading to an eight week extension and a lowering of the culling target to 58 per cent.
Five weeks into the extended period, Natural England announced an abrupt end to culling because there is “no realistic prospect of the cull removing the number of badgers required by the licence”.
“It has been discussed and agreed by Natural England that the cull will end at 12 noon tomorrow,” a spokesman said.
Marksmen have not killed enough badgers to meet their targets on any night and on some nights failed to kill a single one, according to The Guardian.
The Somerset cull, which ended last month, also failed to hit any of its targets even after a three-week extension to the original culling period was granted.
The pilot culls were designed to test whether shooting of free-running badgers at night, rather than trapping them, could humanely and effectively kill enough to prevent the spread of TB.
But campaign groups have warned repeatedly that killing fewer than 70 per cent could have the opposite effect because it will encourage surviving badgers to spread across a wider area.
George Eustice, the Farming Minister, insisted that the extension to the cull had been “worthwhile” despite being called off three weeks ahead of schedule.
“The extension to the cull has been worthwhile and has removed a significant number of badgers which will make a difference to disease control in the area,” he said.
“Now that the cull company is seeing fewer badgers on the ground I agree with the decision to stop the pilot cull for this year and I pay tribute to all those who in the face of provocation have worked so hard.”
Mark Jones of Humane Society International UK said: “In the face of what has been the dismal failure of this policy, we commend Natural England for making the sensible decision to revoke the cull licence.”
David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs for the RSPCA added: “The Government should now admit the trials have failed and halt any plans to roll this cull out to other areas.
“It could not be clearer that this trial cull has not worked and it would be complete madness to continue along this misguided path.”
Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers Union, said the cull had been carried out safely and humanely despite “intense provocation and intimidation by some anti-cull protesters”.
“The NFU remains committed to supporting wider roll out to help prevent the spread of this terrible disease,” he said.