AN INDEPENDENT study is said to have found that the pilot badger culls were ineffective and too many animals suffered.

Leaked research commissioned by the Government found that the number of badgers killed in Gloucestershire and Somerset fell short of targets set to limit the spread of TB in cattle.

It also found that up to 18 per cent of the animals took longer than five minutes to die – many more than the five cent to be judged humane.

Meanwhile, an FOI request by the Humane Society UK has revealed that some badgers were shot in the head, neck and shoulder, against best practice, or took more than one shot to be killed.

In one instance among 41 visits by Natural England to check that those carrying out the cull were adhering to their licence conditions, it took five to 10 minutes to administer the second fatal shot to a wounded badger.

In some cases contractors did not use correct firearms or take biosecurity precautions such as wearing masks or gloves, or using disinfectant.

It has fuelled new calls from opponents of the cull to abandon the policy, which could be rolled out throughout the country.

Stroud-based Jeanne Berry, of Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting, said: “Night after night we witnessed first hand the barbarity of this cull but even with the tiny amount of monitoring that Natural England did it is clear there were serious issues with humaneness and also breaches of bio-security and firearms regulations.”

The Independent Expert Panel was appointed by Defra to evaluate whether the shooting of free-running badgers could be carried out effectively, humanely and safely.

The pilot culls were due to run for six weeks, with the aim of killing 70 per cent of badgers in each area, but both schemes were extended after initial figures suggested just 58 per cent of badgers were eradicated in Somerset and 30 per cent in Gloucestershire.

Defra said the independent panel’s report had not yet been published or submitted to ministers.

A Defra spokesman said: “We knew there would be lessons to be learned from the first year of the pilot culls, which is why we’re looking forward to receiving the panel’s recommendations for improving the way they are carried out because we need to do all we can to tackle this devastating disease.”

Farmers and the Government insist a cull of badgers is necessary as part of a package of measures to tackle the TB in livestock.

But opponents have claimed for years that it would be ineffective and inhumane and have called for tighter measures on farms and vaccination of both badgers and cattle to tackle TB.