As the first pilot badger cull in Somerset draws to a close today, the RSPCA is calling on the Government to be transparent and share details about its effectiveness.
Officials said the six-week trials were intended as a way of testing the effectiveness and humaneness of shooting badgers as a means of controlling bovine TB in cattle.
Yet despite growing speculation about how successful the cull has been and much questioning, very little information has so far been revealed about how those carrying out the cull are assessing the humaneness and effectiveness.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “This cull has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning and into the information gap have fallen many rumours. Now that the six-week trial period is over it is time for the Government to finally tell the public what is going on.
“If it the rumours are correct that the number of badgers killed is much lower than expected, there is a danger bovine TB in cattle could actually be spreading. If badgers are being killed inhumanely, the public deserve to know. If a decision has been made to shoot badgers in more areas of the country, Parliament should be given the chance to debate and vote on whether they want this to happen.
“The RSPCA cares about cattle and badgers alike. This cull is not the answer for either of them. The public has made it clear they are hugely concerned about this cull and they deserve to be told what is going on.”
The RSPCA was appalled when the first shots were fired against badgers at the end of August. The charity remains committed to persuading the Government to put a stop to a misguided, unethical and unscientific attempt to control bovine TB in cattle, which will not help solve the problems caused by this devastating disease or benefit cattle, badgers or dairy farmers and rural communities.
There has been speculation that numbers of shot badgers are well below the target, which science has shown could potentially make bovine TB in cattle worse not better. There have also been indications that the culls could now quickly be rolled out further and wider. This could happen early in 2014. The RSPCA is very concerned these plans to extend the scope and scale of the cull will be made without asking Parliament for their views and without all the information from the culls being made public.
The RSPCA is calling for any decision on a wider roll-out of the cull to be brought back to Parliament for debate and to be subject to a vote in the House of Commons.