A controversial badger cull has come to an end. The government halted the effort after marksmen failed to meet predetermined quotas. The initial target was 70 percent of the Gloucestershire badger population. However, as the trial period neared its end, the marksmen barely reached 30 percent. A similar cull in Somerset also had disappointing results.
The badgers were being killed because they are blamed for spreading bovine tuberculosis. In 2012 alone, nearly 37,000 head of cattle were killed by the devastating disease. The disease is believed to have originated with wild badgers.
The cull received strong support from farmer and veterinarian groups. However, activists said the practice is cruel and ineffective. Telegraph reports that Brian May, former guitarist of the band Queen, is a vocal critic of the badger cull. He said the program’s failure is not surprising:
“Now that the failure of this whole shameful badger cull shambles can be seen so clearly seen… it must be time to abandon the concept, and get on with the only strategy which can ultimately succeed in eradication of bovine TB – vaccination of badgers and other wildlife, and prioritization of work to license the vaccine for cattle.”
Although the actual numbers have not been released, a spokesman for Natural England said there are obviously “fewer badgers in the area than estimated.” Despite the disappointing numbers, the spokesman said the culling license will remain in effect for the next four years. He said the culling effort is expected to continue next year as planned.
DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson will present the official cull results to Parliament on December 2. According to Farmers Weekly, an independent panel will determine if the Gloucestershire and Somerset culls were “safe, humane, and effective.”
Badgers are omnivores, who are closely related to otters and weasels. European badgers, which were being culled, are black and dark grey with distinctive white stripes. They are the largest badgers in the world, weighing up to 40 pounds. They are nocturnal mammals, which spend most of their time underground.
Although their diet consists primarily of insects, worms, roots, and smaller mammals, they have been known to attack or bite larger animals. Officials in Gloucestershire and Somerset organized the badger cull after several cows contracted tuberculosis from badger bites.
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