Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Badger Cull Debate

County Standard supporters like the rural communities we live in, have varying views on the proposed Government badger cull. 

The majority view is that Bovine TB is having a devastating impact of British farming and therefore, if a cull would work it should be supported. However there is little evidence to show that geographically small pilot culls, would have anything but the most marginal, short term results on the impact on Bovine TB.

We certainly don't agree that DEFRA should be using the #TBFree hash-tag on its tweets, when their own evidence shows that at most it will reduce TB in the short term by 16%.

Country Standard also questions the wisdom of a plan that if unsuccessful, the public will end up blaming not the Government but farmers for, thus alienating consumers, just when British farming is recovering from the horsemeat scandal (again nothing to do with farmers) and when it needs all the friends and supporters it can.


Country Standard


Mary Creagh MP gives her view in today's Western Morning News 

Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh MP says the badger cull is the wrong choice

Bovine TB is a terrible disease that has cost farmers in Devon and Cornwall dear. Labour wants it brought under control, but the badger cull is not the solution. In 2012, 28,000 cattle were slaughtered, costing us £90 million in testing and compensation. This is a massive animal disease challenge. The pressure it puts on farmers and their families is chronic, intense and costly, both financially and emotionally.

  1. The ‘Welcome to Gloucestershire’ sign which  appeared on the A40 near Cheltenham ahead of the planned  badger cull to reduce  bovine tuberculosis
    The ‘Welcome to Gloucestershire’ sign which appeared on the A40 near Cheltenham ahead of the planned badger cull to reduce bovine tuberculosis

A cull will be bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife. The Government's own analysis is that it will cost more than it saves, put a huge strain on police and will spread bovine TB in the short-term as badgers are disrupted by the shooting. The taxpayer-funded policing costs are £4 million for just the two cull areas. 

The Environment Secretary is talking about licensing another ten zones next year, if the pilots are successful, with another ten zones for each of the three years after that. Some of these zones may be in Devon or Cornwall. Each cull zone carries a £2 million policing bill, but Defra has not said who will pay.

The Government's determination to push ahead with a pilot cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset ignores the scientific evidence. That is why I have tabled an Opposition Day debate in Parliament today to give MPs an opportunity to vote on the issue. 

When the cull was last debated in Parliament in October last year there was a clear majority against the policy. Twenty five coalition MPs voted against the cull, including four Liberal Democrats in the South West, Annette Brooke, Adrian Sanders, Martin Horwood and Stephen Williams. Today, we need more government MPs to speak out for the science and vote to oppose the cull.

In October last year, an extraordinary coalition of leading scientists spoke out against the Government's plans for a badger cull. The eminent group stated: "As scientists with expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife diseases, we believe the complexities of TB transmission mean licensed culling risks increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it." Lord Krebs, the eminent Oxford scientist who instigated Labour's badger cull trials, described the cull as "mindless."

In Government, Labour set up the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT) to examine whether culling could make an effective contribution to reducing bovine TB. The study lasted 10 years and cost £50 million, it concluded: "The reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results … suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain."

Labour's approach in government was led by that science. We continue to be led by the science. In Government, Labour supported the development of a badger vaccine. Yet the Tory-led government cancelled five of the six badger vaccine trials and continues to cut the research budget for bovine TB. In answer to a Parliamentary Question the Farming Minister admitted that Defra had slashed investment for developing a badger vaccine from £3.2 million in 2009/10 to just £300,000 in 2015/16.

To bring this disease under control, we need a science-led policy with stricter management of cattle movements and to prioritise badger and cattle vaccination to tackle bovine TB. We should be building alliances in the EU to get restrictions on vaccinating cattle lifted.

There is a growing public consensus that the cull is wrong. The Tories and Liberal Democrats are split on the issue and know how strongly the public oppose the cull. The votes of MPs in Devon and Cornwall are needed to stop this cull. I hope they will vote for Labour's motion today. 

The Government should stop, listen to the scientists, listen to the evidence and abandon the cull. Bovine TB is a terrible disease that must be stopped. This cull is not the way to do it.