Badger cull is really bad news for the Environment Secretary

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the cull has killed 708 of an estimated 2,350 badgers in Gloucestershire. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Really bad news for Owen Paterson this morning.

The Environment Secretary had to reveal that the badger cull in Gloucestershire had been a failure - it didn't even get close to killing enough badgers to curb the spread of TB in cattle.

Only 708 badgers, 30% of the population in the cull zone, were killed in the past six weeks.

Originally government estimates suggested there were 3,644 badgers in the cull zone. Then they revised that figure downwards to 2,350. The marksmen managed to kill only 30 per cent of that revised figure - 30 per cent.

Trials of badger culls a decade ago, analysed by the eminent scientist Lord John Krebs, showed that if culls killed less than 40 per cent of the badger population TB wouldn't be controlled, because the remaining badgers would move into new areas and infected ones would spread TB.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

But not only that, rates lower than 40 per cent risked spreading even more TB because of this disturbance effect.

All this follows the failure of the cull in Somerset to meet its targets too.

These culls aren't exactly the same as the trials, so the crucial figures may differ somewhat.

But now in both trials areas the cull has failed to meet it targets and Owen Paterson is facing criticism, not only from animal welfare organisations, but also from scientists who say the best thing to do is to stop the culls now so their effects can be analysed scientifically.

Instead the Government is extending the culls by three weeks in Somerset and now the company employing the marksmen in Gloucestershire is to apply for an extension there too.

How's the cull playing out with the public? More bad news for Paterson - only 15 per cent in a YouGov poll believe it's working.