The Badger Cull – Green Question Time 2015

On 10th April we hosted a Green Question Time, attended by Steven Jackson (Conservative) and Angela Smith (Labour) and chaired by Paul Bridges. Here is the Q&A about the badger cull:

Should the badger cull be continued?

badger 2

Steven Jackson for webI know I do not have the expertise in this area that Angela Smith has.

Instinctively I am opposed to the culling of wild animals and think it should only be done as a last resort. The cull should be stopped and there should be a review based on truly independent evidence as I do not think the information is robust enough.

However, we must do anything we can to support farmers, and bovine TB is crippling them. TB is a nasty and costly disease and has to be controlled, so no options should be ruled out. But it should only continue based on the best scientific evidence and only be done in hotspots and if there are no other options. Vaccinations, exclusion zones or other methods should be tried first, as culling animals is never a desirable solution.

Angela Smith for webThe previous Labour Government commissioned a £50 million, ten year project, which concluded that culling would make no significant difference to TB in cattle. Several of the scientists involved, such as John Krebs, Rosie Woodward and John Bourne, believed culling badgers would be effective and were surprised by the outcome. They were independent scientists looking at the evidence.

This study has been swept under the carpet. The current government has cherry picked the science to justify going ahead with the cull. So have some vets and other politicians. In the first round of the present cull, 2 years ago, the target of 70% of badgers culled was missed. In fact, in Somerset only 48% of the target were culled and in Gloucestershire 39% and these cull rates will make the problem worse. In the second year the Government removed the expert panel who were critical of the first year. In year two only 341 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire and 274 out of a target of 615 (45%) in Somerset.

Labour believes that culling should be the last resort and would halt the present cull. The project is failing. The way forward is biosecurity and vaccination.

Audience Comment:

Historically, when there was a TB outbreak in cattle, there was a period of 20 years where cattle were routinely tested for TB, particularly before moving them around the country. This kept TB at low levels. When this was stopped, rates of TB rose.