Queen star Brian May yesterday called on Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to resign over the controversial badger cull pilot.
The guitar legend, who is one of the leading opponents of the cull, said Mr Paterson had failed to meet the test of “honesty and transparency” expected by the public.
The pilot projects have been launched in Gloucestershire and neighbouring Somerset, in the face of widespread protests, in an effort to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis which is carried by badgers.
The six-week cull aimed to kill 70 per cent of the badger population in those two areas. But statistics released by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed that in Gloucestershire 708 of an estimated 2,350 badgers – about 30 per cent of the total – were killed. And in west Somerset 850 badgers had been culled during the pilot – 60 per cent of the local population – with the Government admitting it had over-estimated the numbers of badgers in these two areas.
As a result cull operators applied to Natural England, which licenses the pilots, to extend the shooting period. A three-week extension was granted in Somerset while an eight-week extension is being considered for Gloucestershire.
The musician, who is a member of Team Badger, said it looked like the cull had been “dishonest in its intent right from the start”.
May added: “It will be regarded as a black period in our history – when killing was undertaken against ethical considerations, against the advice of the whole scientific community, wasting taxpayers’ money, and without producing any benefit for the farming community,” he said.
“Every time you see a Government or NFU official reminding us how much money bovine TB has cost over the last few years, remember firstly that this is our money – the taxpayer – used to compensate farmers, and secondly that, if this is such a serious issue, we need a serious plan to eradicate the disease.
“Eradication can only be achieved through vaccination, so any supposed ‘quick fix’ by culling wildlife is a complete waste of our time and money, apart from being a crime against nature and a disgrace to any country which calls itself humane. This horrific and ineffective policy must be abandoned now, once and for all.”
The Badger Trust is mounting a legal challenge to the cull in west Gloucestershire.