MPs have encouraged ministers to state whether they intend to continue a pilot badger cull to deal with the spread of bovine TB in Gloucestershire, after a second year of below target results.
The culls, including another in Somerset, took place for a second year last autumn and an official report afterwards revealed 274 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire over six weeks - short of a target of between 615 and 1,091.
In Somerset, 341 badgers were culled, against a target of 316-785.
The Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efra), which is chaired by the Conservative’s Malton, Thirsk and Filey MP, Anne McIntosh, published a report yesterday which reviewed the performance of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) during 2013/14. It stated: “We invite Defra to set out why the second year of the badger culling pilots in Gloucestershire failed to meet the licence conditions for the minimum number of badgers removed.
“We recommend that Defra clarifies whether it intends to continue the culling in Gloucestershire from 2015 onwards and, if so, what changes will be made to ensure its effectiveness in line with the recommendations of the Chief Veterinary Officer.”
The MPs also want Defra to publish its own timetable for the development and use of a cattle vaccine to reassure the public that action is being taken to combat bovine TB in this way.
In a written statement in December, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said the chief veterinary officer supported the continuation of culling, saying the outcome of the recent cull in Somerset indicates that industry-led culling can, in the right circumstances, deliver the level of effectiveness required to be confident of achieving disease control benefits.
The results in Gloucestershire reflect the challenges of extensive unlawful protest and intimidation, she said, adding that the Government was determined to continue to implement all elements of its programme to tackle TB until the disease is eradicated.
A Defra spokesman said: “England has the highest incidence of TB in Europe, and over the last two decades the number of cattle slaughtered has increased ten-fold. That is why we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to deal with the disease.”