Badger debate takes political turn

The badger cull debate is hotting up ahead of the general election as political parties set out their stalls, while unions and campaign groups also become more vociferous.

The party political debate at last week’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference saw MPs from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and UKIP parties all debate the best way to tackle bovine TB.

Farming minister George Eustice said the cull in pilot areas was working, and therefore the policy would continue and potentially be rolled out nationwide. However, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, from the Labour Party, was jeered by delegates as he confirmed his party would abandon the cull.

The NFU said it was “bitterly disappointed when the main opposition party seemed to have committed to flying directly in the face of official veterinary advice”.

NFU president Meurig Raymond, speaking at the conference, stated that significant progress was being made in Gloucestershire and Somerset. However, the Badger Trust has countered these claims and said the union is misleading the public. The group has put improvements down to tighter testing, movement and biosecurity controls forced on the UK farming sector by the European Commission in 2012.

Badger Trust CEO said: “Nigel Gibbens, the Defra chief veterinary officer, recently stated that: ‘The fall in TB outbreaks in cattle herds, cannot be attributed either to the pilot culls or in Wales to their badger vaccination programme. It is to do with continued strengthening of the cattle measures’.

“Meurig Raymond seems to have forgotten these important facts when it comes to his NFU conference speech. The Badger Trust would never make any claims about the impact of badger vaccination without scientific evidence to back it up and we expect the NFU to do the same, when it comes to making claims about the impact of badger culling.”

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