Marksmen missed their target of removing 70% of badgers in the Somerset pilot – despite a three-week extension, the government has confirmed.
The pilot cull in west Somerset ended last Friday (1 November) with marksmen removing an estimated 65% of the local badger population.
DEFRA said an additional 90 badgers were removed during the three-week extension, taking the total culled to 940 badgers.
However, despite marksmen falling 5% short of their optimum target, DEFRA insisted that the pilot cull in Somerset had been a success.
A second pilot cull in Gloucestershire has been extended until 18 December.
In a written ministerial statement, DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson said: “Today I am announcing to the House that the three-week extension period in the Somerset control area concluded as planned on Friday 1 November.
“During this period, a further 90 badgers have been removed, giving an overall total of 940 for the first year of the four year cull.
“This represents a reduction of 65% in the estimated badger population before culling began. This will deliver clear disease benefits as part of a four-year cull in the area.”
“While conclusions will need to await the findings of the independent panel of experts, current indications also suggest that the pilot has been safe and humane.”
Owen Paterson, DEFRA secretary
Mr Paterson said the two badger cull pilots were “designed to test that controlled shooting is a safe, humane and effective means of reducing badger numbers”.
With the further removal of 90 badgers, the minister insisted that the extension has been successful in improving the disease control benefits.
“While conclusions will need to await the findings of the independent panel of experts, current indications also suggest that the pilot has been safe and humane,” he said.
“I would like to pay tribute to the local farmers and landowners who have undertaken the cull, often in difficult terrain and weather, and often in the face of intimidation by a small minority who are determined to stop this disease control policy.”
Mr Paterson will make a further statement on the pilot cull in Gloucestershire after it ends.
Then the independent panel of experts will consider the information collected during the pilots on the “safety, effectiveness and humaneness” of controlled shooting.
The panel’s findings will inform Mr Paterson’s decision on the wider roll-out of badger culling in parts of England most severely affected by this disease.
The government is committed to tackling the problem of TB in wildlife as part of its 25-year plan to eradicate bovine TB in this country.
Last year, 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England because of TB, costing the taxpayer an estimated £100m.
Read more about bovine TB and the badger cull