Natural England has granted a short extension to allow culling to continue in Somerset for an extra three weeks. At least 165 badgers need to be culled during the extension to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

The six-week trial cull was labelled a farce after it was revealed marksmen were sent out with targets significantly higher than the actual badger population. Even after the target was reduced by over 400 to reflect realistic numbers, marksmen still failed to cull the 70% of the population that was deemed essential to prevent the disease spreading.

But Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, insists the cull is a success. He said in a written statement that the Chief Veterinary Officer has advised the cull will deliver clear disease benefits even if just 60% of the population was culled.

“Current indications suggest that the pilot has been safe, humane and effective in delivering a reduction in the badger population of just under 60 per cent,” he wrote.

Marksmen will have an extra three weeks to cull a minimum of 165 badgers. One of the terms of the extension restricts marksmen from culling more than 282 bagders to keep the balance of delivering disease control benefits whilst reducing the risk of local extinction.

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