FEARS have been raised that badgers will endure suffering and horrific injuries during the forthcoming pilot culls, after an official Defra document was obtained by an advocacy group.

The material released to Humane Society International/UK by the Government department under a freedom of information request reveals that some animals are likely to be wounded but not immediately killed by marksmen.

With the pilot culls due to have got underway at a number of undisclosed locations in West Gloucestershire and Somerset from Saturday, June 1, the document also discloses that Defra expect a number of badgers to experience massive bleeding, hyperventilation and shock, with some eventually dying of secondary infection or starvation.

The Government has said the culling of badgers is necessary to curb the spread of TB in livestock but opponents say it is cruel and not supported by science.

HSI/UK's executive director Mark Jones, said: "The public has no faith in Defra's failed attempts to justify this badger cull, and people will be horrified by the animal suffering. We must kill this cull, not England's badgers."

A Defra spokesman said: "The design of the study to assess humaneness of the badger culling pilots has been overseen by an independent expert panel, which includes expertise in animal welfare, badger ecology and wildlife population management.

"All marksmen are required to pass a government training course and must adhere to best practice guidance to ensure they can carry out the cull in a humane way."