Badger culls began in 2012 following appeals from cattle farmers whose livelihoods are continuing to be damaged by the spread of TB. 40,000 badgers have been killed so far.
Prof Ranald Munro is the ex-Chair of an independent expert group appointed by the government to assess its trials.The independent expert group was disbanded by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ministers, who said that its work had been completed - though this was against the wishes of many of the experts involved, with one claiming that ministers were "wilfully" ignoring scientific advice.
He has written to Natural England to say that the policy is causing "huge suffering". He adds that the culls are not reducing TB in cattle and in one area the incidence of the disease has gone up. In the very first cull area, Gloucestershire, which could be among the first to see benefits if there are any from the policy, the number of new herds confirmed to have TB increased from 10 in 2017 to 23 in 2018.
In 2014, 20% of culls were supervised by Natural England staff. In 2018, it was able to monitor only 0.4%.
"The terms of the roll-out of the culling have not been adhered to," Prof Munro said. "They are saying 'oh yes, we are observing'; but they are observing at a level which is of no value whatsoever in determining the humanness of culling and whether badgers are being injured or how long they are taking to die."