Farming Minister 'pleased with badger cull progress'
There is "no reason" to think the Somerset badger cull is not killing sufficient animals but the workload is taking its "toll" on marksmen, the Farming Minister told the Western Morning News.
Sources last week revealed to the WMN one of two pilot culls in the South West risked failing as only a handful of badgers are being shot daily.
The total was said to be "well below 100" – a tiny proportion of the 2,000 badgers which need to be culled.
But speaking to the WMN at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, Farming Minister David Heath sought to ease fears among farmers who believe a successful cull is vital to halting the spread of tuberculosis in cows that is blighting the South West. However, he indicated trained shooters carrying out the killing were under strain.
In the first Government comment on the revelations, the Lib Dem minister said following a question-and-answer session: "We've said before we're not going to give a running commentary but what I can tell you is I don't recognise those figures. It is progressing in good order. We are pleased with the progress. And particularly pleased we have had no reports of any incidents where there has been a lack of safety or of a lack of humaneness. What we have to do is wait until the end and get the assessment from the independent experts. They will tell us whether that impression is correct or not."
Asked whether a shortage of professional marksmen was among the problems he said: "We are aware they have been working hard. That has a toll in itself."
Asked whether he was confident the target would be met, he said: "I'll wait and see but I have no reason to suppose not."
In West Somerset, the target is to kill between 2,081 and 2,162 badgers, an average of about 50 badgers a day.