Badger cull cost £4,121 per animal, says charity

Image caption Licences for the cull were granted by Natural England

Badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have cost more than £7m - equivalent to more than £4,000 per badger killed, an animal charity says.

The government pilot culls aimed to kill 70% of the badger population to test how effective, humane and safe a cull could be.

Government ministers and the National Farmers' Union believe culling badgers will curb TB in cattle.

Opponents say shooting the animals is not as good way to control TB.

According to figures from Care for the Wild, £2.6m was spent policing the cull, farmers' costs were £1.49m, and the cost to the government was £3.2m.

It said the number of badgers killed was 1,771, meaning a cost of £4,121 for each animal killed.

Both Avon and Somerset Police and Gloucestershire Police refused to answer Freedom of Information requests from the BBC over the cost of policing the cull.

In declining, both organisations said they "did not have the most up-to-date costs available" and that they "intended to publish the figures in the future".

The cull in Gloucestershire was ended early as it had not met its targets.

But the BBC understands in Gloucestershire the force spent £1.9m and in Avon and Somerset the figure was £900,000.

Dominic Dyer, of Care for the Wild, said the government had delivered one of the "most disastrous and expensive wildlife culls in history".

He said: "It has wasted millions of pounds on a badger cull which has no scientific, animal welfare or economic justification and was carried out in an outrageously sloppy manner which would have been laughable if it hadn't cost so many badgers' lives.

"The way to solve bovine TB is by radically improving farming practices, ensuring that TB testing actually works , and ensuring infected cattle aren't moved from farm to farm."

In a statement Defra said the costs of the badger cull pilots "are vastly outweighed by the impact that bovine TB is having on our farming industry and taxpayers".

"Each bovine TB cattle outbreak costs an average £34,000, and if left unchecked this disease will cost the taxpayer £1bn over the next 10 years," it said.

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