Gloucestershire badger cull ends as targets missed
The badger cull in Gloucestershire is being called off because not enough animals are expected to be killed to meet targets.
Natural England said it had agreed with the culling company it would end at noon on Saturday.
An eight-week extension to the original six-week trial was due to end on 18 December.
Farming Minister George Eustice claimed the extension to the cull had been "worthwhile".
It has not yet been revealed how many badgers have been killed during the extension period. The number is due to be announced by Defra on Monday.
The pilot scheme was extended after marksmen killed only 708 badgers, about 30% of the local badger population. The target had been 70%.
Natural England said it had pulled the plug as the cull was set to miss a revised target of 58%.
A spokesman said: "There is no realistic prospect of the cull removing the number of badgers required by the licence.
"It has been discussed and agreed by Natural England that the cull will end at 12 noon tomorrow."
Natural England added that the decision to end the extension early "does not affect the original licence granted last year, which remains in place and which allows culling operations to take place for four years in west Gloucestershire".
Government ministers and the NFU say culling badgers will curb TB in cattle, but critics assert it has little effect.
A similar cull pilot in Somerset ended last month after it also failed to meet its target even after a three-week extension.
In that area there was an estimated 65% reduction in the badger population - the target was 70%.
Mr Eustice said the extension to the cull had "removed a significant number of badgers which will make a difference to disease control in the area".
Mark Jones from Humane Society International (HSI) UK said he was "relieved" that "at long last some common sense is being applied and the government's badger cull fiasco will finally be over for the time being at least".
"In the face of what has been the dismal failure of this policy, we commend Natural England for making the sensible decision to revoke the cull licence," he added.
"They should have acted sooner and it is deeply regrettable that hundreds of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset have already paid for this ill-conceived policy with their lives."
'Bad for badgers'
Ian Johnson from the National Farmers Union (NFU) said the company carrying out the cull had done an "extremely good job".
"They were doing the culls to test humaneness, safety and efficacy.
"They've ticked at least two of those boxes. It remains to be seen as to the efficacy.
"To a degree numbers are arbitrary because you're talking about a disease which is out of control, and a disease which is as bad for badgers as it is for cattle.
"Anybody that opposes dealing with the disease in flying in the face of animal welfare."
A spokesperson for Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (GABS) said the news was a "huge relief".
The group, which runs the wounded badger patrol, says it has some 500 volunteers as members who are "hugely relieved" the pilot cull was being brought to an early end.