French authorities plan cull of 1,500 badgers

French authorities have held a public consultation over plans to renew the licence to cull badgers in the Somme amid claims the animals are damaging crops and farm machinery.

The prefecture of the Somme said a maximum of 1,500 badgers could be culled in the northern French district using a combination of trapping and shooting.

“The badger is a species in expansion in certain subdivisions of the Somme, which causes significant crop damage, poses a safety problems through road collisions as well as damage to agricultural machinery,” said the prefecture, in a statement.

See also: Badger cull consultation attracts nearly 1,000 signatures

The two-week consultation, held between 13 April and 3 May, proposed to start culling operations sometime between 1 June and 15 September 2016.

Badger culling operations have taken place annually in the Somme since 2004.

Since 2004, 8,702 badgers have been culled in the prefecture either by specially trained marksmen, using shotguns, or the use of trapping.

More than 50,000 people on the website have signed a petition calling for an end to badger culling in the Somme.

The French Society for the Study and Protection of Mammals (SFEPM) said the culling operation was an organised massacre of badgers, which was “absurd, useless and idiotic”.

SFEPM added that it was unlikely that any damage caused by badgers to crops was significant and other measures could be introduced to collect parcels of land.

In England, the government is considering farmer-led applications to extend the badger cull to more counties this summer as part of plans to tackle bovine TB and “tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife”.