Despite an extension for the Gloucestershire badger cull being approved, concerns have been raised that it may not meet the minimum requirement.
Natural England confirmed that the licence had been extended last week. The new licence specifies that a minimum number of 540 badgers need to be culled.
The cull aims to remove at least 70% of the badger population in designated areas in order to prevent the spread of bovine TB.
However, according to the BBC, a document from Natural England says the cull may not meet the requirements and could be revoked if it fails to do so.
The document reportedly says, “It is recommended that the daily removal rate of badgers is monitored closely and if the rate falls below projections (such that a significant reduction in badger numbers may not be achieved) then we should consider terminating culling operations (by revoking the licence) as in this scenario there is unlikely to be a net benefit from continued culling.”
Under the original licence, figures show just 30% of badgers were culled in the six-week period, failing to reach the target.
Environment secretary Owen Paterson said the failure was due to “badgers moving the goalposts”. He argued that unexpected changes in weather, disease and breeding patterns had made the process more difficult.
The cull has been controversial from the beginning but has become even more so since the extension was considered.
The BBC said a second document confirmed the use of cages for trapping badgers and thermal imaging equipment during the initial six-week period. Contractors apparently used this equipment because of issues with free shooting.
If the cull fails to reach at least 70% over the licence period additional culling could be required next year.