Backbenchers vote against badger cull by 219 to 1

MPs branded the badger cull a ‘catasrophic failure’ and voted overwhelmingly against its continuation last night, with backbenchers voting 219 to 1 in favour of abandoning the policy.

The vote is non-binding and farming minister George Eustice is not obliged to hold a full government debate and vote, but the results clearly show opposition to the cull as a means of tackling bovine TB.

During the precedings, Ogmore MP Huw Irranca-Davies said: “Why continue to pursue a policy of eradicating bovine TB in cattle involving mass culling of badgers? It proved hugely costly to taxpayers and farmers and was critically flawed, from the first principles, through the methodology to the application in the field. It failed to meet the government’s own limited tests of effectiveness and humaneness."

MPs were vocal in their support for alternative solutions, specifically vaccinations.

However George Eustice supported the policy by citing examples of successes abroad: “Our view is that nowhere in the world has managed successfully to tackle TB without also dealing with the reservoir of the disease in the wildlife population. In Ireland and France, cull strategies have been successfully pursued,” he said.

He also urged MPs to refrain from over-sentimentality on the subject. He said: “I hope that hon. members can develop some perspective, because shooting is used as a means of controlling foxes and all sorts of other wildlife. If hon. members were to go to Bushy Park or Richmond Park in September and October, they would find signs up saying that a cull of deer was going on and so the park was closed. No one would bat an eyelid.”          

The NFU announced that it was perplexed by the fact that the debate went ahead before The Independent Expert Panel’s report had been made public, and therefore that it is surprising that anybody feels they are in a position to comment on it.

However NFU president Meurig Raymond did say: “More than 30,000 cattle were killed in the first 11 months of 2013 because of the disease. It is vital that we do everything we can to tackle it. Badgers play a key role in spreading bovine TB and so it’s essential that any TB eradication policy must include a targeted cull of badgers in those areas where TB is rife.”

The vote will be encouraging for campaigners like Care for the Wild. Dominic Dyer, CEO for the Badger Trust and policy advisor to Care for the Wild said: “This is a huge disaster for the badger cull policy. The secretary of state and prime minister now have no alternative but to bring this policy back to the House for a full vote before any decision on rolling out the cull is taken.

“It’s clear that members from all sides of the house have huge concerns about the failure of the cull on scientific, economic and animal welfare grounds and believe that the government should now follow the Welsh approach to TB eradication which has proven very effective without culling badgers.”

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