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Badger cull policing cost £2.4m
The Government's badger culling policy has come under renewed attack after it emerged that policing costs for two pilot culls were more than £2.4 million.
Gloucestershire police and crime commissioner Martin Surl said on Twitter that policing costs for the full length of the Gloucestershire cull were £1.7 million.
The cost in Somerset was £738,985, which would be reclaimed from the Government, Avon and Somerset chief constable Nick Gargan tweeted.
The figures show the costs of policing the two culls, which had to be extended as not enough badgers were killed in the original six-week periods, were more than £2.4 million in the first year of the four-year pilot, or £1,300 per badger.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) originally estimated that policing costs would be around £500,000 a year for each four-year pilot.
The Government and farmers believe culling is necessary to control tuberculosis in cattle, which can catch the disease from badgers, but opponents say it will not be an effective solution and is inhumane.
The pilots aim to establish whether badger culling can be carried out humanely, effectively and safely.
In total, 921 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire, with policing costs coming to almost £1,850 per badger. Some 940 were shot in Somerset at a cost of £786 each.
Neither pilot managed to kill the 70% of the badger population thought to be needed to make the cull effective in reducing TB in cattle herds in the area, despite a five-week and three-day extension in Gloucestershire and a three-week extension in Somerset.
In Somerset 65% of the badger population was killed and in Gloucestershire the figure was 40%.
The culls have already faced repeated criticism from animal welfare and wildlife groups for being ineffective and expensive, with animal charity Care for the Wild estimating recently that the two pilots had cost farmers and taxpayers £7 million.
Dominic Dyer, policy adviser for Care for the Wild, said the policing figures were shocking and showed a huge waste of public money.
"The policing costs in Gloucestershire alone exceeded £1.7 million which is half a million more than the total cost of the Welsh Government badger vaccination programme in 2012.
"We need the Government to be honest with the public before they decide to roll the cull out nationally. Is culling badgers really going to help farmers?
"All the evidence says no. It's now clear that the badger cull pilots have failed on scientific, humaneness and costs grounds.
"The wheels are rapidly coming off the Government's badger cull wagon, and it's time to bring this disastrous policy to an end."
But farmers said it was vital that everything was done to control and eradicate bovine TB, one of the greatest threats facing beef and dairy producers.
Andy Robertson, National Farmers' Union director general, said: " While policing costs are a matter for government, they will undoubtedly reflect the threats of intimidation, harassment, trespass and other illegal behaviour from anti-cull activists.
"The culls were a perfectly lawful activity and their cost, which was borne by farmers and landowners, should not be confused with the cost of policing a group of people who tried to disrupt them."
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The costs of the badger cull pilots will be 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 £1 billion over the next 10 years."
The original impact assessment by Defra for the pilot culls, which relied on Acpo's estimates of policing costs, found that overall costs were likely to outweigh the benefits of culling in an area by almost £900,000.
In a statement, Mr Surl said: "£1.7 million is the estimated total cost of policing in response to the badger cull in Gloucestershire.
"The police planned for several scenarios so this has come within the parameters of what could reasonably be expected.
"I have been assured by the police that the sum was justified. It was the cost of keeping the peace in Gloucestershire during a very difficult time.
"Financially, it should not affect policing in Gloucestershire at all because the Police Minister has promised that central government will pick up the bill."