Gloucestershire badger cull challenged by charity

Image caption Defra said 708 badgers had been killed in the six-week Gloucestershire cull

The badger cull in Gloucestershire could be halted after a legal challenge from a charity which says plans to extend the culling period are illegal.

An eight-week extension to the cull was requested after a failure to kill the minimum number of badgers during a six-week pilot aimed at curbing bovine TB.

In a letter, the Badger Trust said it would be "unlawful" for Natural England "to grant a further licence".

Defra said it could not comment on the letter for "legal reasons".

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

'Not effective'

Nigel Gibbens, chief veterinary officer, advised the cull should be extended.

Defra said culls were "important to tackle bovine TB".

A Defra spokesman said: "That is why these pilot culls are so important. We have to use every tool in the box because TB is so difficult to eradicate and it is spreading rapidly."

The Badger Trust said it was asking Natural England to consider their letter when looking at the application to "grant a fresh licence" to shoot badgers in Gloucestershire.

The letter used quotes from original statements from ministers and officials who the trust said had talked of the cull having "a maximum period of six weeks".

The trust said it believed the cull had "met its purpose in testing the 'effectiveness' and had shown it not to be effective".

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

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