A controversial plan to kill as many as 5,000 wild badgers is underway in southwest England. The purpose of the initiative is to prevent the spread of tuberculosis from badgers to cattle; both animals harbor the bacterium and the British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the cull is "based on the best available scientific evidence," according to the BBC.
But some scientists and environmentalists dispute that badgers have a significant impact on the transmission of the disease, and the action has drawn protests from activists who have built camps near areas where badgers are being killed, according to news reports.
Organizers will not say how many badgers have been killed and won't report any numbers until after the six-week program is over in the counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire, though the plan is to kill up to 70 percent of the wild population. Hired marksmen have been instructed to shoot badgers in the head or heart to prevent undue suffering, a stipulation that has done little to quell anger amongst protesters, the BBC reported.