I’ve been asked whether I am opposed to the Conservative Government’s planned badger culls. Here’s my view:
Bovine TB (bTB) is a terrible disease. The incidents of bTB in England is spreading from the South West further north. The number of herd breakdowns doubles every nine years; and some 300,000 cattle have been slaughtered in the past decade to halt the spread of the disease.
The fact that 20% of bTB cases are not found until the cattle reaches the slaughter house suggests that our current testing regime in inadequate. The cost of this disease is running at £500million per year.
The decision to proceed with a cull, however, is wrong. This matter has been debated in Parliament twice in the past eighteen months. Labour has argued that the policy to bring bTB under control must be led by science. The science tells us that a cull could make bovine TB worse. After 10 years work testing and researching culling the Independent Scientific Group concluded in 2007 that ‘badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.’
The science simply does not support a cull. A cull would be bad for badgers, bad for farmers and bad for taxpayers. Each cull will cost farmers £1.4 million, and the Government’s own impact assessment shows those costs to farmers will outweigh the benefits. Bovine TB will increase in the next 2 years as the shooting displaces badgers and the policing costs, paid by the taxpayer, will balloon to £4 million.
There is no scientific basis for the cull. It may not be effective and could clearly make matters worse.
That is why I have opposed the Government’s plans for a badger cull from the days they first suggested it. Sadly, the votes of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have enabled this policy to continue.
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to call on the Government to take a science led approach to dealing with this terrible disease.
As Labour’s Rachel Maskell stated at our recent conference: “Every shred of evidence says bovine TB will be beaten with better testing, vaccination, better biosecurity and animal husbandry. A Government that ignores scientists, academics, its own experts and many farmers too and instead turns its frustration on a badger, is giving false hope. Labour will end the badger cull and prioritise ending bovine TB.”
I will continue to oppose this wasteful and misguided cull.