Princess Anne has prompted more anger from animal welfare campaigners by calling for an end to a ban on gassing badgers.
The princess royal waded into the controversy over the badger cull by claiming that gassing the animals was the most humane way of tackling the rise of tuberculosis in cattle.
She made the remarks to the BBC’s Countryfile programme to be broadcast on Sunday. In the interview Princess Anne also repeated amuch-criticised call she made last year for horses to be farmed for their meat, according to the Radio Times.
Her latest comments were dismissed by experts as ill-informed and were rounded on by the animal rights lobby.
The royal intervention came a day after the environment secretary,Owen Paterson, abandoned plans to extend badger culls across England after an independent report found that pilot shoots were ineffective and inhumane.
A leading badger expert dismissed Princess Anne’s suggestion as no better than the shooting cull. Dr Rosie Woodroffe, who conducted a 10-year trial of badger culls, said gassing badgers failed to control the spread of TB when it was tried in the 1970s.
She said: “Gassing badgers was government policy in the 70s and if you go back to reports of the time, there was frustration about how it just wasn’t very effective. Sets would be gassed and then opened up again by badgers again and again.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said the practice of gassing badgers with cyanide proved to be so inhumane that it was banned in 1982. Woodroffe said: “The problem seemed to be that badger sets are built to hold warm air in and keep cold draft out, so it was very difficult to achieve a lethal concentration of gas. And sub-lethal concentrations of gas were inhumane – that’s why ministers banned gassing in 1982.”
She suggested the princess was being too simplistic. “It is tempting to think it would be easier to kill badgers when they are a sitting target underground, but it turns out from reports from the 70s that it is just not that straightforward,” Woodroffe said.