'Townie' MP Mary Glindon tries to stop badger TB cull

Badger
Image caption The government is planning to allow the culling of some badgers to control the spread of Bovine TB

The North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon might be a self-confessed townie but that hasn't stopped her wading into one of the biggest controversies in the countryside - the government's plan to allow a cull of badgers.

The government says the cull is essential to control the spread of tuberculosis from badgers to cattle.

Around 25,000 cattle with TB were slaughtered last year, with £90m spent on testing and compensation.

And it is estimated bovine TB could cost the taxpayer £1bn in England over the next decade if it's not brought under control.

Questionable science

But although Mary Glindon accepts those facts she disagrees with the solution, and called a Commons debate about the cull.

At the start of her debate she did confess that her largely urban constituency only contains four farms. In addition, the North East is not an area that currently has a bovine TB problem.

Image caption MP Mary Glindon is a self-confessed townie but believes a badger cull would be wrong for the countryside

But the Labour MP said she still felt she had to speak out against the cull, because she believes the government is using questionable science to justify it.

She told the Commons that the plan could even make the problem worse as badgers could move from cull zones and spread TB into areas that are currently unaffected by the disease.

Instead she believes ministers should look again at developing a vaccine that could curtail the incidences of TB in the badger population.

The MP claimed trials of a vaccine in Gloucestershire were showing signs of success, and accused ministers of making a mistake by cancelling plans to try vaccination in five other areas.

She said: "I urge the Minister to rethink culling. The science is the route, and the science says do not cull.

"Resources should be poured into vaccine, ensuring that farmers and badgers have an equal say and that we do not look at killing before we look at curing."

Trapping badgers

But Mrs Glindon had other objections too.

The badgers will be shot in the open rather than trapped, and objectors are concerned that will be fraught with problems.

The North Tyneside MP said it could cost forces £200,000 to police protests against the culls, while it could lead to the extinction of badgers in some places.

She said: "The problem is that the shooting might be random and that there will be no one to enforce any safety measures whatever.

"The badgers will be shot as they are running or moving along as badgers do in the undergrowth.

"But who will keep people off the target site or ensure that the shot badgers are killed outright and not wandering off in pain to die a cruel death or, if wounded, wandering away from their setts and spreading the disease?"

These arguments didn't cut any ice with the Agriculture Minister James Paice.

Public safety

He said the latest scientific evidence showed that in culling trials the incidences of bovine TB had been cut by 34%.

And he did not accept there was any danger to the public.

Image caption Thousands of cattle a year have to be destroyed after contracting bovine TB

He added: "There will be independent monitors on site, watching badgers being shot. There will be post mortems, so we shall examine the effectiveness and humanity of what happens, and of course safety."

So for now Mary Glindon has lost her battle to stop the cull. But the war is far from over.

Mind you, by the sound of the Commons debate, the intervention of an urban MP didn't go down well with some of her colleagues in the countryside.

The efforts of those - including Mary Glindon - who want to stop the cull are certain to continue though.