Badger cull licence extended
A licence has been granted to extend the badger cull in Somerset until November.
The extension to the controversial cull ends on November 1. The six-week Somerset pilot cull officially ended on October 6.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Owen Paterson) said in a statement that: “Current indications suggest that the pilot has been safe, humane and effective in delivering a reduction in the badger population of just under 60 per cent.
“We set ourselves a challenging target of aiming to ensure that 70 per cent of the badger population was removed during the pilot. The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) has advised that the 60 per cent reduction this year will deliver clear disease benefits as part of a four-year cull.
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“The advice of the CVO is that further increasing the number of badgers culled would improve those benefits even further.”
Queen guitarist and anti-cull campaigner Brian May described the pilot as an “utter failure” and the application for an extension as a “farce”.
When asked if he had “moved the goalposts” Mr Paterson replied:“The badgers moved the goalposts”, for which he has been widely lampooned. He said: “We’re dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of the weather and disease and breeding patterns.”
The targets for this cull were set at the outset on the basis of population estimates carried out in September 2012. Estimates were reassessed in August 2013 immediately before the culls started.
The results showed that the estimated number of badgers is significantly fewer in the Somerset and Gloucestershire cull areas compared to last summer. In Somerset the latest population estimate is 1,450 compared to 2,400 last year, and in Gloucestershire 2,350 compared to 3,400.
During the six week pilot cull, 850 badgers were killed in Somerset.
Hair traps were set in the cull zones so that DNA could be extracted and analysed. These have given more up-to-date figures on the badger population and this is why the benchmark for the number of badgers to be culled has now been lowered, according to Defra.
Paterson said that “to achieve our aim of ridding England of Bovine TB within 25 years will require long-term solutions and considerable national resolve. This Government is committed to tackling the disease in all reservoirs and by all available means.”