POLICING the badger cull in Somerset cost £739,000 according to new figures released by Avon and Somerset Police.

The initial six-week cull, which started on August 27, cost £541,000.

But it was then extended for three weeks, ending on November 1, after marksmen failed to meet their targets, costing a further £198,000.

The Department for Environ-ment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will pay the cost.

The aim of the culls was to kill 70% of the badger population in a bid to try and curb bovine TB and to test the effectiveness, humaneness and safeness of a cull.

A potential badger cull across ten further areas has been postponed by the Government following an independent assessment showing the culls were ineffective.

Questions were also raised about their humaneness.

It is said, however, that culling will continue in Somerset and Gloucestershire for a further four years.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson last week announced a strategy to achieve a TB-free status in England by 2038.

It includes a grant-funded scheme for badger vaccination projects in the ‘edge area’ at the frontier of the disease.

Mr Paterson said: “The four-year culls in Somerset and Gloucester-shire are pilots and we always expected to learn lessons from them.It is crucial we get this right.

“That is why we are taking a responsible approach, accepting recommendations from experts to make the pilots better.”

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, added: “In one sense this announcement is great news as the lives of thousands of badgers have been saved.

“We do welcome the commitment to creating badger vaccination ‘buffer zones’ but we also wish to see this rolled out to TB hot spot areas as well.

“The Government will now be under huge pressure to provide farmers with a vaccination option in areas where there won’t be a cull for many years, and we’re very happy to help them do this.”

Mr Dyer also said that the Badger Trust will now be looking at options to take a Judicial Review case to the High Court to stop any further badger culling.

But the National Farmers’ Union says farmers will be ‘bitterly disappointed’ in the decision not to roll out badger culls.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “While we don’t agree with all of the assumptions made in the IEP report, we will need to examine the report in more detail.

“TB remains a terrible disease for cattle and cattle farmers where it is persistent and high.

“Members are our priority.

“For our beef and dairy farmers, TB remains a terrible disease which is having a huge impact on their cattle and their farm business.”