Further research is planned into the use of carbon monoxide as a potential method for the humane culling of badgers, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed.
The tests will not involve live animals, Defra said in response to a Freedom of Information request (FOI).
Alternative badger control methods are being examined as the Government looks for the must humane and effective way of tackling the spread of bovine tuberculosis among wildlife.
Two pilot culls carried out last year yielded limited results in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Defra’s written response to the FOI stated: “There will be some preliminary tests to investigate the dynamics of carbon monoxide dispersal in a sett environment to determine whether any available delivery mechanisms have the potential to achieve humane and effective outcomes in real sett situations.
“These preliminary tests will not involve the use of inhabited setts or tests on live animals. Whether or not we proceed with further work involving live badgers is dependent on the outcome of these preliminary tests.”
The department said there was no set end-date to the research and that the outcome of the tests will be published when the full programme of work has been completed.
Research was carried out on gassing artificial setts in 2006-2007, which ended inconclusively, Defra said. The research was not pursued at the time because the previous administration did not wish to carry out a badger cull in 2008.
Since August 2013, Defra has been working to a budget of £61,397 for research into alternative methods of badger control.