Badgers should be caught before being shot, says British Veterinary Association
The shooting of free-running badgers in the government's culls should end, the British Veterinary Association says.
However, the BVA says the four-year pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset should continue, with badgers instead trapped in cages and then shot.
It also said the first two years of culling had not demonstrated that "controlled shooting" of badgers in the wild was effective or humane.
The government says the cull helps tackle tuberculosis in cattle.
But anti-cull campaigners say it is cruel and ineffective and want other measures to be used, such as vaccinations for badgers and livestock.
The BVA said it still supported badger culling as part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle the disease in cattle, which can be picked up from badgers.
It also supports the roll-out of culling to new areas, but said the culls should only use the option of cage trapping followed by shooting.
BVA president John Blackwell said: "BVA's support for badger culling as part of the bovine TB eradication strategy has always been predicated on it being delivered humanely, effectively and safely.
"BVA supported the pilots to test the use of controlled shooting but data from the first two years of culling has not demonstrated conclusively that controlled shooting can be carried out effectively and humanely, based on the criteria that were set.
"However, BVA remains convinced that if we are to tackle this disease then we need to control the infection in the wildlife population, and badger culling must form part of the comprehensive strategy for tackling bovine TB."
Professor Alastair MacMillan, veterinary adviser to the Humane Society International UK, said while he welcomed the BVA's withdrawal of its support, its "ongoing support for cage trapping and shooting is regrettable".
And HSI UK's chief executive Claire Bass said it took 12,957 traps to catch 302 badgers in the two cull areas last year, a large majority of which did not have TB.
"So if the government switches to trap and shoot and sets similar cull targets this year, it'll have to foot the bill for some 30,000 traps, and a small army to set and police them," she added.