Labour calls for Parliamentary vote on badger cull

2 June 2013 | Badgergate

The Labour Party is tabling an Opposition Day debate on 5th June on the Government’s plans to cull badgers in England.  As it happens, 5th June is also World Environment Day. The motion to be debated reads: “This House believes the badger cull should not go ahead.”

The Labour Party’s website quotes Mary Creagh, MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Minister, as saying leading scientists have warned against this “untested and risky approach” and that:

“A cull would be bad for badgers, bad for farmers and bad for taxpayers. The taxpayer will pay policing costs of £4 million for just two areas, while the cull will spread bovine TB in the next two years as the shooting displaces badgers.”

The culls could start any day now and will result in the removal of around 5,000 badgers from just two areas. There are many unanswered questions about the effectiveness, humaneness and costs of the planned culls, but the Government wants to roll this policy out to many more areas in the next few areas. This will result in tens of thousands of badgers being killed – all for a possible 16% reduction in the incidence of TB over 9 years. Experts say that in the same time you could achieve greater reductions in cattle TB through a combination of better biosecurity and vaccination of badgers, and ultimately cattle, against TB.

If you disagree with the badger cull, please write to your MP urgently about it. If you can, please also write to Prime Minister David Cameron. Ask them to take part in the debate on 5th June and vote in support of the motion against the badger cull. MPs voted 147 to 28 against the badger cull in the last Parliamentary debate in October 2012. While the vote was not binding, it still represented a moral victory.

It’s always better to write a letter in your own words, but if you’re pushed for time we’ve provided links to sample letters from other groups. It’s also good to ask specific questions, otherwise you’re likely to end up with a stock response. Here are some ideas of things to ask your MP:

  • Why is England culling badgers when Wales has decided to vaccinate rather than cull after reviewing the same evidence base?
  • How can you be sure you will not completely wipe out the local badger population given the difficulties of counting badgers accurately and the uncertainty about the accuracy of even the latest population estimates? (See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/27/badger-cull-bovine-tuberculosis1 & http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/27/badger-cull-bovine-tuberculosis
  • How much has been spent so far on planning and preparing for each pilot cull and who exactly is paying for what, i.e. what are taxpayers paying for and what is farming industry paying for?
  • How much more will each pilot cull cost to complete over the next 4 years?
  • What are you doing to ensure that the public will not be put at risk during the pilot culls, how much will the extra policing and other measures cost and who is paying for this?
  • What will you do about badgers that are not killed outright during the cull, but are wounded and manage to escape or bolt back into their sett? (Also see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/30/humaneness-badger-cull-judged-noise & Defra’s humaneness monitoring report)
  • Why is so much of Defra’s humaneness monitoring report blacked out? Why is Defra not making the full report publicly available? What is in there that Defra does not want the public to know?
  • How will you ensure that use of dogs to track wounded badgers complies with Defra’s rules (e.g. no more than 2 dogs at at time, not allowed to enter sett, only used to track etc.)?
  • In the event dogs are used to track wounded badgers, why is it not a requirement that they are muzzled to avoid any potential errors or abuse? (See: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/200909/pb13922-shooting-guidance-20130517.pdf (p. 3, 7 & 16)
  • Do you think it is correct to kill thousands of badgers when a recent poll shows that a third of the British public are opposed to it and nearly 240,000 people have signed a government petition against it? Many more are likely to oppose the culls if they knew more about their details, including how many badgers will need to be killed to achieve a very small reduction in cattle TB over many years and that alternatives do exist and can be made more cost-effective. (See: Bovine TB & The Toolbox)
  • Why has the Secretary of State for Environment, Owen Paterson, said that we need 20-25 years of hard culling of badgers when the Government also says ‘No one wants to kill badgers’ and has claimed that it is doing all it can to implement other measures, including cattle-based measures and investing in both badger vaccination and doing the necessary to make cattle vaccination legal?  If the latter are all true, then an oral badger vaccine and cattle vaccination should be available in less than 10 years and would be far more cost-effective than culling badgers.

You can find out more about the planned badger culls in Pilot Culls – the basics and in our Guest Articles, for example, Dr Chris Cheeseman’s Why a badger cull won’t work and Mark Jones’s piece for the Huffington Post on The inhumanity of badger culling. Dr Cheeseman spent many years studying badgers and bovine TB , while Mark Jones is the Executive Director of the Humane Society International/UK.  Team Badger has also just produced a very useful booklet, Backing Badgers, which counters many of the key claims made in support of the cull.

Also see What you can for more ideas of things to do to help persuade the Government to reconsider its plans to cull badgers.