Badgers have "moved the goalposts" according to Environment Minister Owen Paterson
Badgers have "moved the goalposts" according to the Government minister responsible for the badger cull.
Owen Paterson MP was trying to explain why the pilot cull in Somerset was being extended.
He told BBC Spotlight: "The badgers have moved the goalposts. You are dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of weather and disease and breeding patterns."
Ministers are to admit marksmen have killed just 850 animals during a six-week cull, less than half an initial target of 2,000 required, or around 70 per cent of the local badger population.
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Parliament will today learn a fresh estimate shows fewer animals are actually inhabiting the area than thought – meaning not as many need to be shot dead.
Under the new benchmark, 59 per cent of badgers have been killed, leading to officials to argue the cull has been “successful”.
Mr Paterson said: "We have very skilled people on the ground and their latest estimate...shows that very roughly there are a 1,000 fewer badgers this year than last year.
"In my personal opinion having talked to some of those guys on the ground is that sadly some of these badgers are very sick and that shows that we are absolutely right to bear down on disease in a hotspot area."
Badgers are blamed for spreading tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, and culling them is part of plans to halt the disease destroying farming in the South West.