The upcoming badger cull will be overseen by phone calls rather than on-the-ground monitors, it has emerged, in a move triggering outrage from animal rights campaigners.
A freedom of information request from the Care For The Wild charity found there will only be two independent monitors checking the shooting of around 5,100 badgers take place humanely.
The deaths of all but 120 of the badgers being culled will be checked by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs via a phone call to the marksmen – a move animal welfare groups has responded to with disbelief.
"Are they for real? What exactly do they expect to gain from a phone call?" Care For The Wild's chief executive Philip Mansbridge said.
"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."
The upcoming badger cull pilot taking place in two pilot areas in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset will last for six weeks and will be repeated annually for four years.
The move, an effort to halt the spread of bovine TB which ministers acknowledge is devastating Britain's beef and dairy industry, is being questioned by campaigners who argue there is little evidence the cull will work.
"Going ahead with it will give false hope to farmers, is pointless for cattle, and utterly disastrous for badgers," Mansbridge added.
Defra says countries like New Zealand have succeeded in reducing the number of infected cattle from 1,700 in the mid-1990s to less than 100 in 2011 because of similar measures.
"The pilots are being carried out to test the chosen method of culling through free shooting," the department said in a statement in February.
"The pilots will be independently assessed to check the method is both effective in removing enough badgers and humane."
But it has now emerged just three per cent of badger killings will be independently monitored.
"For this kind of trial, scientists would expect around 50% of the killings to be monitored," Mansbridge said.
"Three per cent is a sad joke which shows how little the welfare of the badgers really means to this government."