Ministers are coming under increasing pressure to publish initial figures from the West Somerset badger cull amid mounting claims that the pilot scheme has failed to kill even half the target number.
The trial, another of which is still ongoing in Gloucestershire, was permitted by the Government to test the efficacy of shooting free-running badgers as part of its long-term strategy to tackle bovine TB (bTB).
Early in the scheme, Western Morning News sources said only a handful of badgers were being shot on some nights.
While rates are thought to have increased after additional manpower, and traps, were brought in, reports have suggested the number of badgers culled is about 800.
That is significantly below the target of around 2,100 set by the Government, equal to 70% of the badger population in the area, and could result in the cull being judged ineffective and could even send bTB infections soaring in cattle herds close to the cull zone.
Paul Caruana, field manager for the government's decade-long, cage-trapping culling trial that ended in 2006, said that 750-800 badgers had been killed in Somerset as of Friday evening.
Mr Caruana, who no longer works for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) but was drafted in to help deploy cages to boost the kill rate in the latter stages of the Somerset cull, told the Guardian: "Three weeks ago they hit the panic button and contacted people to try to get the show back on the road."
He said cage-trapping had a "big impact" on the numbers killed, adding that otherwise: "It would have been a total disaster."
The issue is expected to be front-and-centre when Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ministers are quizzed in the House of Commons on Thursday.
The outgoing shadow environment secretary, Mary Creagh, has already urged Ministers "to come clean about what has been happening" now that the cull in Somerset has ended.
She said: "Scientists have warned that a botched cull is worse than no cull at all. We are now facing the worst case scenario: badgers have been killed, TB in cattle may well get worse and we are no closer to tackling this terrible disease. Ministers have to lift the veil of secrecy and come clean on what is actually happening."
Professor Rosie Woodroffe, a badger expert at the Zoological Society of London and a key member of the Randomised Badger Cull Trial team, said: "If the [Somerset] badger population estimates are correct, then culling 800 badgers would be in the region where I would expect cattle TB incidence to be elevated rather than reduced by culling."
St Ives Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George says the Government should publish the "raw data" from the two culls a week after they have finished.
And yesterday RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: "This cull has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning and into the information gap have fallen many rumours.
"Now that the six-week trial period is over it is time for the Government to finally tell the public what is going on."
But a Defra spokesman ruled out any early publication of cull information.
"A report will be put together after the culls have finished with all the data in from the two pilots areas," he said. "Once that has been collated it will go to the independent expert panel who will check the way in which the information has been gathered and how scientifically legitimate and robust it is.
"That will then go to ministers who will make a decision on the controlled shooting method and any future roll out of pilots to other areas."
He said the process could take "two months or possibly longer".