Badger cull: RSPCA calls for 'greater transparency' from Defra
The RSPCA is calling for greater transparency from Defra as the second stage of a pilot scheme to cull badgers began in west Gloucestershire.
A spokesman for the charity said "very little information" had been disclosed about the way the cull was being carried out "despite much questioning".
Defra said independent experts would publish a report after the pilot ended.
About 5,000 badgers are to be shot in a six week-period in Gloucestershire and Somerset in a bid to curb bovine TB.
The pilot began in Somerset last week, but no-one involved will say how many badgers have been shot or killed.
The RSPCA said: "We are very much calling for greater transparency from Defra, especially in terms of culling methods and the accurate assessment of humaneness.
England's badger cull
- Badgers are being shot by marksmen in the west of England as part of measures to protect cattle from bovine tuberculosis (TB)
- The marksmen are shooting the badgers at night after putting food such as peanuts outside their setts
- Badgers are thought to pass on the disease to cattle through their urine, faeces or through droplet infection, in farmyards or in pastures
- However, the extent of their role in the spread of bovine TB is not clear since the cows can also pass on the disease
- According to one newspaper report, cage-trapping badgers for vaccination (or shooting) costs about £2,500 a hectare, whereas shooting them as they run freely costs about £200
"We are also concerned that plans to extend the scope and scale of the cull appear to have been made without proper political scrutiny - before the pilots have even taken place and without asking MPs for their opinion, despite many having reservations about the cull."
He said the RSPCA wanted any wider rollout of the cull to be "brought back to Parliament and subject to a vote in the House of Commons".
A spokesman for Defra said: "An independent expert board will scrutinise information on the safety, effectiveness and humaneness of the pilots once they have concluded and will publish a report."
More than 100 badger cull protesters spent Tuesday night in west Gloucestershire aiming to witness or disrupt the cull, which they say is inhumane and will be ineffective.
The scheme aims to assess if culling can be done effectively, safely and humanely.
There are plans to roll out the scheme more widely in areas which are hotspots for TB in cattle if it is seen as successful.