Hundreds of thousands of pounds of UK taxpayers’ money has been spent on equipping badger cull marksmen and women with tracking devices so that their movements could be mapped by co-ordinators and police.
Anti-cull activists have criticised the expense, arguing that the cost of the cull should be met by farmers rather than the public purse.
The tracking devices were intended to keep the shooters safe during this autumn’s cull. But it has emerged that saboteurs were able to use a security flaw in the devices to locate shooters and disrupt their activities.
Figures from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed that more than £300,000 has been spent on the tracking devices.
Defra accepted that farmers were expected to fund the cost of the cull but said that on the advice of the police in order to keep shooters safe it had bought the devices.
In 2017, it emerged that almost £500,000 of taxpayers’ money went on buying radios to link shooters with police in remote areas where there is little mobile phone coverage.
Then, too, saboteurs turned the tables by investing in equipment that enabled them to trace the signals produced by the radios, pinpointing the position of marksmen and giving activists the chance to disrupt the shooting.
Jay Tiernan, of Stop the Cull, said: “Once again we have found clear evidence that the killing of badgers which the government told us would be paid for by farmers, is in fact paid for by the British taxpayer.
“Tracking devices that are used by the shooters so that their movements can be coordinated by a central ops room are supposed to be paid for by farmers not coming out of an already overburdened public purse.
“As in previous years, the devices chosen by experts have once again shown to have serious security flaws and have made life much easier for activists to find and neutralise any shooting efforts.”
In September, it emerged that ministers had approved 11 new areas for culling, taking the total up to 43 with up to 64,000 animals likely to be killed.
Badger culling has been the mainstay of the government’s attempt to tackle bovine TB since 2011, with a system of licensed shooting introduced in Gloucestershire and Somerset two years later.
Meanwhile, a man who ran a field sports business in Cornwall has been given a suspended jail sentence after the carcasses of 28 badgers were found in freezers on his home and at an industrial unit in July.
Scott Milne, 42, from Bodmin, admitted killing the badgers outside the time of the authorised cull and passing them off as animals legally shot during the permitted period.
Defending Milne at Bodmin magistrates, Michael Green said: “This is an unusual case in many ways. He felt a pressure to meet badger cull targets to keep his licence, which contributed to him making the stupid decision to shoot badgers outside the cull period.”
Sentencing Milne, the chairman of the magistrates’ bench told him: “Although you were licensed to cull badgers these actions were done entirely outside of any licence period.” Milne received an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He must also carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
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