The cost of the badger cull pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire has been put at £4,100 per badger shot, campaigners claim – and put the cost of a four-year trial at £19 million.
Animal charity Care for the Wild almost doubled its previous estimate, made in October, of £2,200 per animal, and now puts the total cost of the cull trials, which began in August at £7.3 million.
Taxpayers will pick up £5.8 million of that, with farmers paying directly to cover the direct costs of shooting the 1,771 badgers.
The figures increased after the culls were extended, with both coming to an end last month – the Gloucestershire cull being abandoned due to a failure to achieve its targets.
Charity spokesman Dominic Dyer called it “one of the most disastrous and expensive wildlife culls in history”.
He added: “This is being done to the sound of scientists almost universally saying that culling won’t have any significant impact on TB.”
Derived from answers to parliamentary questions, statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Freedom of Information requests, the figures out the cost to farmers who paid for the culling itself at £1.49 million. The policing bill was put at £2.66 million, made up of costs for manpower, transport, equipment and accommodation.
A further £3.17 million was attributed to costs at environment quango Natural England, the Food and Environment Research Agency and Defra, and included trapping, monitoring and data collection.
A spokesman for the NFU said: “If marksmen had been allowed to go about their lawful business, there wouldn’t have been any policing costs.”
The annual cost of bovine TB to the taxpayer has been repeatedly put at £100 million by the NFU and Defra. A large chunk of this is compensation paid to farmers who had TB-infected cattle slaughtered. This reached £34 million in 2012-13, up from £30 million the year before that. The costs go further, however, with the plummeting value of cows under restriction and the huge mental strain on farmers who see swathes of their herd lost. Some of the costs to Defra are regained through the onward sale of infected carcasses.
A report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last year put the cost of an injectable badger vaccine at £2,000-£4,000 per sq km, with the vaccine itself expected to cost £5-6 per dose and the DIVA test (which differentiates between infected and vaccinated cattle) costing £25, in addition to existing testing costs.