Badger debate crosses borders - MPs debate cull

Few parliamentary debates generate as much emotion or passion as those that involve the welfare of animals.

Today's debate on the proposed badger cull in England is no exception. The Commons has heard of badgers being killed for "sport" and of cattle being slaughtered in front of young children.

Both the above tales came from Welsh MPs. Responsibility for animal health - and the problem of bovine TB - may be devolved to the Welsh government but the arguments (presumably like the badgers) are quite capable of crossing borders.

In Wales, ministers scrapped plans for a cull in favour of vaccination of badgers. In England, a cull that had been imminent was, earlier this week, suspended until next year.

So the arguments continue. Shrewsbury and Atcham Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski - who is parliamentary private secretary to the secretary of state for Wales - said there had been a huge increase in bovine TB in his constituency.

He had met dairy farmers to discuss the problem. "I don't mind saying that sometimes grown men and myself, we've sat round the table and cried. Such is the emotion that these people are facing.

"When they see sometimes whole herds being taken away for slaughter, the impact that has not just on themselves but also their families, particularly young children in that family, is absolutely devastating."

Newport West Labour MP Paul Flynn opposed the cull. "There is a group of people in my constituency who have been caught indulging in badger culling.There's an element of sport in this, that many people sadly enjoy killing wild animals.

"It's not part of the growing civilisation of this country as we go from decade to decade and we treat other living species with greater respect and not with contempt."

Montgomeryshire Tory MP Glyn Davies, a farmer, spoke in favour of a "targeted pilot cull" to see what difference it made - if it didn't work he said he wouldn't support a general cull.

Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South Tory MP, Simon Hart, a former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, accused Mr Flynn of generating more heat than light.

He said many farm animals had been killed because of the threat of bovine TB. "A lot of those animals would have been perfectly healthy, some of them would have been in calf; some of them because they were so much in calf would have probably had to be slaughtered on the yard, in front of, in many cases, young children."

Mr Hart said there were very serious consequences about not doing anything. He invited the rock star and anti-cull campaigner Brian May (who watching from the public gallery) to visit farmers in Pembrokeshire to see for himself the impact of bovine TB.

UPDATE: MPs voted overwhelmingly, by 147 votes to 28, in favour of a motion calling on the UK government to abandon its cull entirely but as the debate was held at the behest of backbenchers ministers are not bound by the vote.