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The pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire last year cost £5,200 for every badger killed, according to official figures.

Defra published figures on Friday (14 November) showing 1,879 badgers were killed at a cost of £6.3m.

The figure, when added to the £3.5m cost of policing the culls, means the first year of the pilots cost the taxpayer £9.8m. Therefore, each badger killed in the pilot cost £5,216.

Defra had to pay for the policing costs, charged to them from the Home Office.

The cost of the second year of the culls, part of the government’s 25-year TB eradication policy – is not yet known.

Defra is still analysing the cull data, which needs to be independently audited before it can be released.

See also: Scientists call for tougher cattle measures to curb TB

A spokeswoman for Defra defended the costs of last year’s culls and insisted they were justified compared with the annual £100m it cost taxpayers to slaughter TB-infected cattle.

She added: “England has the highest incidence of bovine TB in Europe.

“The cost of the badger culls need to be seen in the context of the devastating scale of the threat bovine TB poses to our farming industry and food security – £500m in the past decade. Doing nothing is not an option.

“We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, badger vaccination and culling. Many of the costs associated with the pilot culls last year were one-offs and have not been repeated this year.”

The NFU said it supported the government’s cull and 25-year eradication strategy to rid the countryside and  beef and dairy cattle of TB.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said the union was committed to tackling the disease on all fronts.

He added: “TB is crippling farming businesses. In the past two years, more than 70,000 cattle were compulsorily slaughtered in Great Britain because of TB, and a further 4,763 new herds reported contracting the disease in 2013. This simply cannot go on.

“We must continue to tackle this disease on all fronts to see an end to this misery and safeguard the future of British beef and dairying in this country.

“Dairy farmers in particular are under increasing price pressures and simply cannot afford the £14,000 on average each TB breakdown costs them.”

But Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and policy adviser for Care for the Wild, described the culls as a “horrendous waste of money”.

He urged the UK government to follow the example of Wales, where there is compulsory annual TB testing of all cattle and there are “better movement controls”.

“By doing that, they have brought down the number of cattle slaughtered for bovine TB by 48% in five years,” said Mr Dyer.

“Wales has a policy that is far from doing nothing, and is actually working. England has a policy that is inhumane, unscientific and is throwing money down the drain.”