Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioners Martin Surl said policing in his county cost an estimated £1.7m. Commenting on Twitter on Monday he said the figure covered the initial six-week pilot cull and the five-and-a-half week extension period.
With 921 badgers culled over nearly three months in Gloucestershire, the policing cost alone equates to more than £1,800 per badger, prompting critics of the policy to claim the associated costs do not justify the benefits in terms of disease control in cattle.
On Tuesday, Somerset chief constable Nick Gargan followed suit, revealing on Twitter that the Somerset cull cost £738,985 over nine weeks, money he said would be refunded by Defra.
Interviewed on Radio 5 Live, Mr Surl said, despite the high cost of policing, the protests were ‘relatively peaceful’.
“There was very little disorder in the county. Obviously people weren’t happy but there was pretty much peace and good order throughout,” he said.
“The police have to facilitate free protest, that’s part of the constitution of the UK.”
Defending the cost of policing, he said: “That was the cost of policing in the county to keep good order. It was over a huge area of rural Gloucestershire, 130 square miles, at night, riddled with public footpaths.”
Anne Mcintosh, the Conservative MP who chairs the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said the protests were not ‘quite as peaceful and conscientious as reflected in the figures’.
She said: “I think it would have been very helpful if the cull had been allowed, the pilot had been allowed, to take place, in a peaceful manner.”
The NFU responded by arguing that police costs, which comfortably exceeded the initial estimate of £500,000 in each area, were down to the ‘illegal behaviour of anti-cull protestors and should not be confused with the true costs of the policy.
NFU director general Andy Robertson, said: “Bovine TB is the greatest threat facing our beef and dairy farmers and it is vital everything is done to control and eradicate it.
“Farming family businesses in areas where TB is endemic continue to be devastated by this disease which is why the NFU is absolutely committed to seeing badger controls carried out in areas where TB is rife.
“While policing costs are a matter for government, they will undoubtedly reflect the threats of intimidation, harassment, trespass and other illegal behaviour from anti-cull activists.
“The culls were a perfectly lawful activity and their cost, which was borne by farmers and landowners, should not be confused with the cost of policing a group of people who tried to disrupt them.”
Last week, Wildlife charity Care for the Wild’s released figures suggesting culling badgers in the two pilot areas of England last year cost a total of £7.3 million, which equated to £4,121 per badger culled. This compared with an estimated cost of vaccinating badgers in Wales of more £600 per animal.
Dominic Dyer, Care for the Wild’s Policy Advisor, said the figures, which included an estimated £2.6m in police costs across both areas, showed the Government had ‘wasted millions of pounds on a badger cull which has no scientific, animal welfare or economic justification’.
A Defra spokesperson said: “The costs of the badger cull pilots are vastly outweighed by the impact that bovine TB is having on our farming industry and taxpayers.
“Each bovine TB cattle outbreak costs an average £34,000, and if left unchecked this disease will cost the taxpayer £1 billion over the next 10 years.”
Defra Secretary Owen Paterson is due to make an announcement on whether culling will be rolled out to up to 10 news areas in England this year by the end of February.