Badger culls 'will not be rolled out if targets are missed'

Badger Image copyright PA
Image caption The maximum number of badgers that can be killed is 1,091 in Gloucestershire and 785 in Somerset

Plans to extend badger culls will be cancelled if pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire miss their targets, a source close to Defra has told the BBC.

The second year of trial culls came to an end on Monday.

The BBC understands Somerset met its target of 316 badgers, and in Gloucestershire, 253 out of a minimum 615 were culled.

Government department Defra said it was "unhelpful" to speculate on numbers before they were audited.

The humaneness of the culls will also be reviewed and signed-off by the Chief Veterinary Officer, a spokesman said.

"But the fact remains that England has the highest incidence of bovine TB in Europe and doing nothing is not an option. We need to protect our beef and dairy industries, and our nation's food security," the spokesman said.

"That is why we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to deal with the disease, supported by leading vets, which includes cattle movement controls, vaccinating badgers in the edge area and culling badgers where TB is rife."

Camp badger

During the first year of the cull, an independent panel found the culls were ineffective and inhumane.

Cull supporters blame badgers for spreading TB to cattle.

BBC Points West politics editor Paul Barltrop said: "I've talked to a senior Liberal Democrat who is unequivocal - if it fails to hit its targets [the extension] will not be allowed."

The maximum target in Gloucestershire was 1,091 and in Somerset, 785 badgers.

Jay Tiernan, from Stop the Cull, set up Camp Badger near Norton Fitzwarren, in Somerset.

He said Somerset protesters felt they had achieved "quite a lot" as the maximum target had not been reached.

Cull operators have admitted disruption caused by protesters adversely impacted their work.

Livestock farmer James Small, from Somerset, said the pilots needed to be tested over a longer period of time before the success can be measured properly.

Mr Small added: "Within the farming community, in the endemic areas, we are looking to ensure that wildlife control measures are part of the package to the industry to try and control TB."

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