I beg to move,
That this House
believes the badger cull should not go ahead.
We begin with a question: is culling badgers the most effective way to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis? Labour Members believe that it is not. The consensus among scientists who are not on the Government payroll is also that it is not. They call it a “costly distraction” and a “crazy scheme”, and they urge the Government to change course. Labour Members will be led by those scientists; we were in government and are now in opposition. This is a cull based on hope, not on science. We have warned the Government for two years that the cull will be bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife. In government, we were open to the idea. Having asked the question, “Will culling work?” we conducted a 10-year-long, £50 million randomised badger culling trial, which concluded that it will not work. If it will not work, the alternatives, however difficult, must be explored.
I want to begin by explaining why this cull is bad for farmers affected by bovine TB—the biggest animal disease challenge that this country faces. It is bad for farmers because the cull would cost them more than it saves them; bad for farmers because the science does not stack up; and bad for farmers as tourists holiday somewhere else having decided that the sound of gunfire and protest is not conducive to vacation relaxation. I know the toll that this terrible disease takes on farmers and their families personally, emotionally and financially. Controlling it is imperative to protecting farmers’ livelihoods. The European Union requires us to have a national strategy for eradication.
Badgers carry TB. They transmit it to cattle, but the infection also passes among cattle, from cattle to badgers, and among badgers. We know this because during the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic, when no testing was carried out on cattle, TB in badgers increased by 70%. The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB and four scientists from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency say that that was due to a substantial transmission of TB from cattle to badgers. The roots of infection and transmission of the disease are still poorly understood.
This cull is bad for farmers because of the large costs and the small benefits.