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Application submitted to extend pilot badger cull
AN APPLICATION to extend the Somerset badger cull by two to three weeks has been made.
Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary, told MPs on Wednesday that Natural England was expected to make a decision in the next few days.
He said indications suggested the pilot cull had been “safe, humane and effective” and had reduced the badger population by 850 – just under 60 per cent of the estimated total.
“The advice of the chief Veterinary Officer is that increasing the number of badgers culled would improve those benefits even further and enable them to accrue earlier,” he said.
Mr Paterson said that immediately prior to the start of the pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire – which is also expected to ask for an extension – extensive hair-trapping took place to provide an up-to-date estimate of the badger population within the two cull areas.
The results showed numbers were significantly less than the previous summer when the last hair-trapping was done. In Somerset, the estimate was 1,450 compared to 2,400 last year, and in Gloucestershire 2,350 compared to 3,400.
Peter Kendall, NFU President, welcomed Mr Paterson’s statement and said: “The knowledge learned from these two badger cull pilot areas will be invaluable in helping to deliver future roll-out of badger control operations in areas where the incidence of TB is rife.
“Our absolute focus, and that of everyone involved, is disease control.
More than 38,000 cattle were slaughtered in Great Britain in 2012 because of bovine TB. These badger cull pilots are a very important first step in what is a 25-year strategy to eradicate this terrible and infectious disease.”
However, campaigners reacted angrily to any extension of the two culls and the Minister’s indication that future culls may have to be longer than six weeks to ensure “high levels of safety and humaneness”.
Queen guitarist Brian May, a leading opponent of the cull, said figures showing the number of badgers killed were “widely disparate”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “This is the third lot of figures we’ve seen, they’re widely disparate. They have no idea how many badgers there are and they keep adjusting the figures to make it look like this is a success.
“This was supposed to be a twoweek shoot. It’s already been extended to six weeks. Now, they want another three weeks.
This has demonstrated already that free shooting doesn’t work. The only way they got to 800 badgers was by cage-trapping and shooting.
“If you are cage-trapping and shooting, you can cage-trap and vaccinate.
There is no way on earth that culling badgers can lead to the eradication of TB. We have to abandon this ridiculous cull.”
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