MPs demand end to 'inhumane' badger culls
The government has come under cross-party pressure from MPs to end badger culling, which is being carried out in England in an effort to control the spread of bovine TB in cattle.
A backbench debate was held on the subject on 13 March 2014, after a leaked review by independent experts is understood to have found that pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset failed to reduce the risk of bovine TB.
Leading the debate, Conservative MP Anne Main said the report's conclusions were "damning" and called for an end to the "inhumane" slaughter of badgers.
"This House wishes to tackle bovine TB in an efficient, effective and humane manner and that's why we need to stop the failed cull policy and not grant any further licences and come up with a better method of tackling TB, without inflicting pain and misery on a protected species," she urged.
Angela Smith, Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, joined Ms Main in calling for alternative measures such as vaccination, cattle-movement, testing of cattle and bio-security.
Conservative Simon Hart, a former Countryside Alliance chief executive, counselled that no method of control or culling "is without its welfare consequences".
But Labour MP Paul Flynn said of Mr Hart: "He was known in Wales and for many years before he entered the House as the main advocate of killing small animals for fun, and I think we should bear that in mind."
The Conservative chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Anne McIntosh, told MPs bovine TB was costing taxpayers £500m a year, which could increase to £1bn in the next decade.
Ms McIntosh said badgers were rightly given protection in the 1970s as the population was in decline: "But now when we say the extent to which the badger population has grown and the implications for the spread of bovine TB that is very serious indeed."
The pilot culls were due to run for six weeks, with the aim of killing 70% of badgers in each area.
First assessments had suggested that, in those six weeks, 58% of badgers had been killed in the Somerset cull and 30% in the Gloucestershire pilot; although it is understood less than half of all badgers in both areas were killed over the period.
North Herefordshire MP Tory Bill Wiggin suggested Britain should leave the European Union because it would allow farmers to vaccinate their cattle against the disease.
He said the European Commission's assertion that vaccinating cattle is forbidden under EU legislation was unhelpful.
But he told MPs the debate on the badger cull was unworthy of a vote as the report into its effectiveness had not been published.
Part two of the debate can be found here.