UPDATE: Defra has issued a statement to The Huffington Post UK making it clear the humaneness of the cull will not be checked over the phone. A spokesman said "monitoring will be done on the ground through direct observations."
A charity has claimed the controversial culling of thousands of badgers will be monitored over the phone.
Wildlife welfare groups have responded furiously to reports that only 120 out of more than 5,000 badgers shot during the upcoming badger cull will be monitored to ensure their killing was humane.
Under licences issued for the cull, badgers can be trapped in cages and shot in the head or killed through the cheaper method of shooting free-running animals in the chest.
A document released by the Environment Department (Defra) and obtained by the Humane Society International UK (HSI) earlier this year, acknowledged that while some badgers will die very quickly, others may suffer from symptoms such as haemorrhaging and hyperventilation.
If not fatally wounded, the creatures could later die from infection or starvation.
"Are they for real? What exactly do they expect to gain from a phone call?" Philip Mansbridge, Care for the Wild CEO asked incredulously.
"No-one is going to be telling them ‘I winged it, it screamed in pain then ran off into the woods’. But that’s the reality of what is going to happen – and the government doesn’t want to know," he said.
He added that any pretence that the cull will be carried out in a humane way has now "been shot out of the water."
"For this kind of trial, scientists would expect around 50% of the killings to be monitored – 3% is a sad joke which shows how little the welfare of the badgers really means to this government," he said.
The upcoming badger cull pilot is taking place in two areas in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset and will last for six weeks. it will then be repeated annually for four years.
Despite insistence from officials that the badgers will be killed humanely, concerns have already been raised about the suffering of the animals.
“Some of those animals are going to get maimed and they will bleed to death, they will probably crawl underground and die," wildlife expert Bill Oddie said.
"It is truly a horrific situation.”
Care for the Wild also reacted to David Cameron’s claims that not going ahead with the cull would be "disastrous for farmers, cattle and badgers."
“This is a blatant attempt to gain public support for this cull, and it’s blatantly inaccurate," Mr Mansbridge said.
Arguing there is little evidence the cull will actually work, he said the cull "has no scientific or moral basis."
Experts, including scientists behind the long-term trial, have raised concerns that the policy will have "unimpressive" results in reducing TB and suggested that it does not make economic sense.
"Going ahead with it will give false hope to farmers, is pointless for cattle, and utterly disastrous for badgers," Mr Mansbridge concluded.
However, if deemed successful, the Government plans to roll out culling more widely across the nation.
Protesters, led by rock star Brian May, have pledged to do everything possible to stop the cull.
“You could kill all the badgers in Britain and it would not stop the problem of bovine TB in cows,” Dr May argued.
A DEFRA spokesperson said: "The safety and humaneness of the badger cull pilots are our absolute priorities.
"Experts will observe and monitor the cull in the field and post-mortems will be carried out for further checks.
"We have listened to advice from an independent expert panel on humaneness to ensure that the monitoring system in place is robust."Suggest a correction