UK – An independent expert panel will assess the Gloucestershire trial badger cull impact after it was terminated on Saturday 29 November, almost three weeks early.
The decision of Natural England, the culling company and the National Farmers Union to end the cull came after 40 per cent of the kill target had been reached.
Figures show the additional five week and three day cull extension claimed a further 213 badgers, taking the total for the area to 921.
The panel’s conclusions will inform badger control decisions in areas most affected with tuberculosis.
Department for the Environment Farming and Rural Affairs Secretary Owen Paterson said the decision to extend the cull was the right one.
He said: “The aim of the extension was to achieve the earliest and greatest possible impact on bTB in the area, in line with the Chief Veterinary Officer’s advice that a further significant reduction of the badger population in the first year would increase the likelihood of disease benefits in cattle over the full four years of the cull."
In a written ministerial statement, he added that controlling badgers is just one element of a ‘comprehensive strategy’ to eradicate bovine TB from England within 25 years.
“We are using every tool available including tougher movement controls for cattle…better biosecurity on farms and working to develop effective and usable cattle and badger vaccines,” said Mr Paterson, in a statement yesterday.
Early abandoning of the cull extension has provoked anti-cull campaigners into further criticism of the method.
In a statement, the Badger Trust said the cull has ‘wasted the lives’ of hundreds of badgers and the abandonment of the trial cull was inevitable.
But, National Farmers Union President Peter Kendall continued to back the culling and the decisions to end operations.
He said that, despite intimidation from anti-cull protestors, the culls were undertaken safely and humanely.
Mr Kendall said: “While the operation has continued to remove badgers on a daily basis, the numbers seen have been steadily reducing as the season has progressed”
“Therefore, as cage trapping has to cease on 30 November, the cull company has concluded that this is a sensible time to bring operations to a close for this year. The NFU is fully supportive of this decision.”
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