England

Policing badger cull cost '£1,311 per badger'

badger Image copyright SPL
Image caption Licences for the cull were granted by Natural England

The total cost of policing the badger cull pilot has been confirmed as nearly £2.5m - or about £1,311 per badger.

In Gloucestershire, police and crime commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl tweeted the cost as "around £1.7m", while Avon and Somerset chief constable Nick Gargan said its costs were £738,985.

A total of 1,861 badgers were killed by marksmen - 921 in Gloucestershire and 940 in Somerset.

One charity earlier estimated the total cost to be £4,121 per animal.

The figures, from Care for the Wild, revealed £2.6m was spent policing the cull, farmers' costs were £1.49m, and the cost to the government was £3.2m - which meant a cost of £4,121 for each animal killed.

'Public confidence'

The government pilot aimed to kill 70% of the badgers to test how effective, humane and safe a cull could be.

Government ministers believe killing badgers will curb TB in cattle, but opponents argue shooting is not the best way to eradicate the disease.

Just before the cull it was estimated that there were 2,350 badgers in west Gloucestershire and 1,450 badgers in west Somerset.

Compared to a similar estimate in October 2012 the numbers had fallen by about half - Defra said reasons for the apparent decline included last winter's weather, disease and lack of food.

"These badger populations go up and down," the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said in October.

There had been claims by wildlife charities illegal killing of badgers may be behind the decline in numbers.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Many people were opposed to the cull and formed a protest camp

Gloucestershire PCC Mr Surl said on Twitter the £1.7m estimate represented the cost of policing the entire cull and "not just the extension".

Mr Surl said there had been a huge amount of public interest in the figures.

"I just managed to get them into a state which I think are fairly robust," he said.

"I wanted to release them as soon as I could - it's a matter of public confidence."

He added it was now for politicians in Westminster to decide whether it was a cost they were content with.

'Impact of TB'

Mr Gargan of Avon and Somerset Police originally said he would release the figures on Friday.

But he later revealed the cost to be £738,985, for both the original cull period and the extension.

Both Avon and Somerset Police and Gloucestershire Police previously refused to answer Freedom of Information requests from the BBC over the cost of policing the cull.

In a statement, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the costs of the badger cull pilots were "vastly outweighed by the impact that bovine TB is having on our farming industry and taxpayers".

"Each bovine TB cattle outbreak costs an average £34,000 and if left unchecked this disease will cost the taxpayer £1bn over the next 10 years," it said.

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