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October 9, 2013

Applications for Extension of Pilot Badger Culls Submitted

Humane Society International/UK

  • Numbers of badgers in cull areas have been overestimated. Stuart Matthews

by Mark Jones

An application to extend the six-week pilot cull in Somerset has been submitted to Natural England as Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs sources admitted badger population estimates in the cull zone had been overestimated.

DEFRA has confirmed that there are approximately one-third fewer badgers in the area than previously thought, revising down the number of animals from 2,400 to 1,450. Before the cull got underway, Natural England, the cull licensing body, had set the minimum number of badgers to be killed in Somerset at 2,100—650 more animals than DEFRA now estimates exist in the area.

It is shocking that the estimates were so dangerously wrong to the extent that the kill target for shooters in Somerset was set higher than the actual number of badgers living in the cull zone.

Concerns raised under the Bern Convention

HSI/UK repeatedly raised concerns about the possibility of local extinctions when we challenged the cull under the Bern Convention in December 2011, stating then:

“There is no recent or precise data on English badger populations either nationally or locally. This means that estimates of the minimum and maximum numbers of badgers to be killed in order to reduce populations by 70 per cent as the government intends will be based purely on guesswork, and it is entirely possible that some populations of badgers in designated control areas could be completely wiped out.”

It is astonishing that DEFRA is still claiming this cull to be a success when everyone can see it's been an utter calamity. The only thing that DEFRA has succeeded in doing is showing a blatant disregard for animal welfare, wildlife protection and science. DEFRA needs to come clean and kill the cull for good.

Shooters have reportedly killed 850 badgers in Somerset so far, just over 40 per cent of the local target. The revised estimate for the Somerset cull area badger population is 1,450, giving a new Somerset kill target of 1,015 badgers.

An application for an extension to the Gloucestershire cull is expected to be lodged with Natural England today. Estimates for badgers in that cull zone have also been revised down, from 3,400 in 2012 to 2,350, according to DEFRA.

Find out more about our campaign to protect badgers.

Mark Jones is executive director of HSI/UK.

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