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Call to put badger culls to a vote in Parliament

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 12, 2013

Call to put badger culls to a vote in Parliament
Comments (6)

The Government is under pressure to put plans to expand badger culling to a vote in Parliament amid growing Conservative unease at the policy to halt tuberculosis in cattle.

During a fierce debate yesterday, a cross-party section of MPs criticised the two recently-completed "pilot" culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire that have come under fire for missing their targets.

Tory MPs – notably in the South West, where bovine TB is ravaging the farming industry – remain broadly behind culling the wildlife said to spread the disease.

But the Westminster Hall debate underlined how some Conservatives are adopting the position of Labour and many Liberal Democrat backbenchers.

Anne Main, Conservative MP for St Albans in Hertfordshire, said her position had gone from "neutral to negative".

She told MPs: "Bring it back before the House. It's what Members want. The public will not understand concerns from people like myself who have moved from neutral to negative."

The two pilots fell short of the 70% target for badgers to be culled. An independent panel will examine the results before a decision on a roll-out to up to 40 areas, which could include bovine TB hotspots in Devon and Cornwall.

Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford in Kent, was also publicly critical of the policy. She said: "It's a bit of a cheek for the Government to say the pilot culls have been a success yet those of us who are actually anti-cull are being told not to leap to conclusions before the independent panel has concluded."

Huw Irranca-Davies, Labour's Shadow Farming Minister, said any further culls should "test the democratic legitimacy". MPs have yet to vote on a binding motion over the badger cull, which the Labour spokesman said was an "affront to parliamentary democracy".

The disease led to the slaughter of 28,000 animals last year – more than 20,000 in the South West – at a cost of £100 million to the taxpayer.

There remains strong support for culling, particularly with vaccination of cattle and badgers seen as being many years away.

Simon Hart, Conservative MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, alluded to musician Brian May backing animal welfare groups opposed to the cull.

He said: "Farmers have been through hell over the last 20 to 30 years. The involvement of the animal welfare organisations only cropped up in the last few. (Farmers) are the celebrities we should be listening to."

Geoffrey Clifton Brown, Tory MP for the Cotswolds, warned increased restrictions to cattle movement would mean "no beef cattle" in "vast areas of the South West".

He said: "We will end up importing more beef and we'll lose jobs in this country."

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  • Bex173  |  December 15 2013, 3:06PM

    While 'free2opine' is certainly free to opine, it is quite naive, considering the facts, to assume that George Eustice's 'farming background' is any indication of his expertise in 'getting the problem of bTb sorted out'. Presumably this has been a farming problem for decades - logically if a farming background was all that was necessary, the problem would have already been 'sorted'. This is a question of science, not farming, and sadly many 'stewards of the countryside' are still neglectful of biosecurity issues. Funnily enough, it takes an outside agency (the EU) to insist upon better biosecurity and movement regulations. Simon Hart's comments in the above article are sadly indicative of the superfluous understanding of the issues involved. Farmers are not celebrities, scientists, etc., and if it takes a 'celebrity' (with a PhD in astrophysics, and ex University Chancellor, by the way) to highlight the issue, so be it. Brown's assertion that "increased restrictions to cattle movement would mean "no beef cattle" in "vast areas of the South West" is an indication of the ridiculous rhetoric that has muddied this matter, as well. While it would be nice to have a Parliamentary debate on this issue, a Parliament without politicians such as this would be increasingly more worthwhile.

    Rate   2
  • JuliaMichell  |  December 13 2013, 4:23AM

    This badger cull has been carried out like a vigilante war, England's bTB policy is a mess, thank goodness for EU oversight calling for better biosecurity and stricter cattle movements.

    Rate   8
  • Clued-Up  |  December 12 2013, 4:57PM

    I think Owen Paterson's repeated absences from parliamentary debates most of us would expect him to attend has more significance than you suggest, Free2opine.

    Rate   4
  • Free2opine  |  December 12 2013, 12:00PM

    Clueless, your comment is false as the badger cull debate was not held today. Owen Paterson was busy with other work as badgers are NOT his only problem, surprisingly enough so therefore your comment whilst not libel is rather pathetic. GE may be new to this particular job but he at least has a farming background, therefore he may not be quite so hapless as you make him out to be. He at least has always supported badger culling and will be a great help in getting the problem of bTB sorted out.

    Rate   -5
  • Free2opine  |  December 12 2013, 10:20AM

    Ha!ha!ha!ha!ha!.....hilarious. You have just proved the point I posted on another "article"

    Rate   -1
  • Clued-Up  |  December 12 2013, 10:09AM

    I've been watching parliamentary TV's coverage of todays badger cull debate. MPs are obviously as peeved and shocked as the rest of us by DEFRA ministers' behaviour. Owen Paterson didn't turn up (surprise, surprise), leaving his hapless junior (George Eustice) to field questions. He looked rather forlorn and uncomfortable. He didn't try to answer any of the questions he was asked. About three-quarters of the MPs who spoke felt the cull had been an unmitigated disaster and wanted it stopped. Two of the MPs present at the debate said they could no longer support the cull. Many MPs wanted the project totally reappraised and for the badger cull issue to come back for a full parliamentary debate.

    Rate   5