Labour is demanding an urgent update on the progress of the pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire amid unconfirmed claims that the trials were faltering.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh has written to Owen Paterson following newspaper reports that fewer than 100 badger were shot in the first two weeks of culling in Somerset.
On Friday (13 September) Ms Creagh raised a point of order in the Commons over “worrying reports in several newspapers that the number of badgers being shot in Somerset was ‘considerably lower than the target of 2,000 set by the government'”.
She told the speaker that ministers had “failed to answer the questions I have tabled about the number of badgers culled in the cull areas” and asked for an update at the “earliest opportunity after the conference recess”.
In a letter sent to Mr Paterson, Ms Creagh writes: “On 5 September I tabled a parliamentary question (scheduled for answer on 10 September), requesting the number of badgers killed in each of the two cull areas.
“Given your failure to answer this question before the rise of the House I would be grateful if you would supply the figures to me directly.”By the time parliament returns on 8 October the Somerset cull will be completed and the opportunity for MPs to discuss this new information and for you to share the government’s contingency plans will have been missed.”
An NFU spokesman said: “We are not commenting on anything to do with operational numbers, which has been our stance all the way through the pilot culls.”
A DEFRA spokeswoman added: “We will not be commenting on any operational numbers. We will be making an announcement after the cull has finished.”
DEFRA has also dismissed national newspaper claims that it would be taking over direct control of the cull as “completely false”.