The Government has refuted claims a pilot cull of badgers has gone beyond being “morally and scientifically bankrupt” after campaigners revealed each animal has cost the taxpayer £2,200 to kill.
According to charity Care for the Wild with only 1,558 badgers killed and the bill for the cull an estimated £3.5million - it has cost the equivalent of providing a hospital bed for a week to kill each animal.
It was revealed on Thursday that a badger cull in Gloucestershire could be extended by up to eight weeks after it fell well short of its target – with just 30% of a required 70% of animals killed.
A similar cull in West Somerset received an extension of three weeks after just 59% of badgers were killed over a six week trial.
The wildlife charity, which is a supporter of the campaign group Team Badger, has pointed out the figure far outweighs the cost of vaccinating badgers in parts of Wales – around £662 per animal.
However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has rejected the figures and argued they are vastly outweighed by the hefty £1billion the disease would cost if left unchecked for the next 10 years.
Care for the Wild said the costs of policing each zone was an estimated £2million, Whitehall costs were half a million, and £1million was spent on the cull last year before it was abandoned.
Policy advisor Dominic Dyer said: “If the fact that this cull is morally and scientifically bankrupt isn’t enough, we’ve now got the fact that every badger killed so far has cost the British taxpayer around £2200.
“To put that in perspective, the cost of each dead badger could provide a hospital bed for a week.
“The number of badgers they’ve actually managed to kill is also very worrying. I don’t know how they can possibly kill enough badgers in the next three weeks in either zone to reach the total they want.
“That means scientifically the cull can’t possibly have any positive impact on bTB – and will most likely make it worse.
“They should stop now before this cull costs more lives and more taxpayers’ money for absolutely no reason.”
However, Defra argued that many of the costs of the abandoned cull in 2012 were spent on preparations which were carried over to 2013, and that the costs of policing were half those estimated by the charity.
A Defra spokesman said:“The costs of the badger cull pilots are 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 £1billion over the next 10 years.
“We have to start tackling the disease in wildlife where the disease is widespread to get TB under control.”
Bovine TB, said to be carried by badgers, is rampant in parts of the South West, where an estimated 20,000 cattle were slaughtered last year because of the disease.