Poll: Should the badger cull come to Shropshire?
The Government's controversial badger cull has been branded an "embarrassing failure" after pilots of the scheme in two counties failed to hit targets for numbers of animals killed.
Have your say about whether the cull should come to Shropshire in our poll.
Critics of the scheme say the fact that fewer badgers than planned have been killed risks making the problem worse – a fact they argue scientists warned could happen right from the start.
Environment Secretary and North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson remains firmly behind badger culling as the best way of eradicating bovine tuberculosis in cattle and wants the scheme rolled out to places such as Shropshire.
Farming Minister George Eustice issued a staunch defence of the cull, insisting it had been "worthwhile" and praising marksmen who "worked so hard . . . in the face of provocation".
He said: "Let's not forget that more than 305,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Great Britain in the past decade due to this terrible disease, which is why we are doing everything we can to get it under control."
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But shooting is being halted in Gloucestershire three weeks ahead of schedule after it became clear even a reduced badger killing target would not be met.
The pilot scheme had been extended by eight weeks after marksmen exterminated only around 40 per cent of the local badger population – short of a 70 per cent target.
Announcing the extension last month, Mr Paterson insisted sufficient animals had been "removed" to suggest a wider four-year scheme would have "clear benefits" in tackling bovine TB. He has previously suggested the results were poor because "the badgers moved the goalposts".
But an extension to a trial in Somerset also failed to meet its target. Another 90 were killed there in the extra time, taking the total to 940 – a reduction of 65 per cent.
Today, the Green Party spokesman on animal issues Caroline Allen said the cull should never have started.
She said: "The pilot culls have been an embarrassing failure. It is very worrying to hear the National Farmers Union already talking bullishly about the culls being rolled out in spite of the clear lack of effectiveness and against all scientific evidence."
Queen guitarist Brian May is a high-profile opponent of the cull, and his environmental group, Save Me, joined forces with the Badger Trust to try and get the culls stopped. The trust spokesman Jack Reedy said it was a "humiliating and inevitable setback" for Mr Paterson, the Government and the cattle industry which had "wasted the lives of many hundreds of badgers".
But Mr Paterson, said the decision to extend had been shown to be "the right one", adding: "I would like to pay tribute to the local farmers and landowners who have undertaken the pilots in both areas, often in difficult terrain and weather, and often in the face of intimidation by a small minority who resorted to widespread criminality in their determination to stop this disease control policy."
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