Natural England has confirmed that the use of shotguns will continue to be permitted during this year’s badger culls, despite the Independent Expert Panel reporting a lack of evidence that shotguns are a humane way to kill badgers.Humane Society International/UK’s executive director, veterinarian Mark Jones, said: “I’m appalled that DEFRA is arrogantly ignoring the clear advice of the British Veterinary Association on the basis of the Independent Expert Panel’s findings, by allowing badgers to be killed with shotguns this summer despite the fact that there is no evidence at all to show this is humane. As a vet I fear that targeting a moving animal in the dark by spraying it with shotgun pellets will vastly increase the chance of non-lethal injuries and prolonged suffering. In allowing shooters to continue using shotguns, DEFRA and Natural England are showing a blatant disregard for badger welfare.“This news comes just days after the most recent figures from Wales showing the lowest number of cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB for a single month in March since 2008, and ever-decreasing new herd outbreaks. Whilst Wales calmly gets on with tackling this disease using sensible, science-led measures, in England DEFRA’s ineffective, inhumane and unnecessary massacre of badgers is set to continue without even modest concessions to welfare. If DEFRA is prepared to ignore both the BVA and the IEP on this important issue, what else will it ignore? I’m concerned this could represent the thin end of the wedge, as DEFRA continues to simply cast aside any unfavourable expert and scientific opinion in pursuit of a badger cull at any cost.”The IEP’s report stated that shotguns should only be considered if their use is to be rigorously monitored. However, DEFRA has repeatedly confirmed that the IEP will not be reconvened this year and that cull contractors will only be monitored by Natural England for license and best-practice compliance. HSI UK believes that adherence to best practice guidelines in no way guarantees animal welfare and does not constitute the ‘rigour’ the IEP called for.