Gloucestershire badger cull falls short of target

Image caption The number of badgers killed by marksmen has fallen short of its target

The number of badgers shot during a six-week cull in Gloucestershire has fallen short of its target, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has told MPs.

Defra said 708 badgers had been killed in the county, 942 fewer than the target of 1,650.

Nigel Gibbens, chief veterinary officer, advised it should be extended. This could be for eight weeks.

Badger campaigners have called the scheme a "massive failure" and said they would continue their protest .

'Safe and humane'

Mr Gibbens said extending the cull would achieve the "earliest and greatest possible impact" on bovine TB in Gloucestershire.

Defra said Natural England was currently considering the application to extend the licence in Gloucestershire and a decision is "expected shortly".

Mr Paterson told the BBC the cull figures were "not bad news" but admitted that those carrying out the killings had "got off to a slower start" in Gloucestershire.

"We must remember that these are pilots," he said.

"This has not been done before and we are learning, clearly, in each area. This isn't a sudden six-week period. These pilots are intended to go on for four years.

"Up to to the end of July, a further 20,000 perfectly healthy cattle have been hauled off to slaughter at horrendous expense to the taxpayer because we've lost control of TB."

Mr Paterson said 305,000 cattle had been "lost" over the past 10 years and it was "not acceptable" to allow the disease to go on.

'Bite the bullet'

The badger cull in Gloucestershire ended this week. A licence was granted last week to extend the badger cull in Somerset until 1 November.

Defra said early indications from Gloucestershire are that, as in Somerset, the pilot had been "safe and humane".

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Media captionEnvironment Secretary Owen Paterson: "We've lost control of TB"

The government's original target was 2,900 badgers, based on a population estimate of 3,400 animals. The target was then revised to 1,650, from a population of 2,350.

Last week Mr Paterson said the government was exploring the possibility of gassing badgers to cull carriers of bovine TB.

Stop the Badger Cull spokesman Jay Tiernan said the cull had been a "massive failure".

"It's disgraceful," he said. "It clearly isn't safe, effective or humane.

"It is time for someone to bite the bullet and admit it's been a failure."

Mr Tiernan said protests against the culls would continue.

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