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Backbench Business — Badger Cull

Part of Royal Assent – in the House of Commons at 1:35 pm on 13th March 2014.

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Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Shadow Minister (Scotland) 1:35 pm, 13th March 2014

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I must say that I have been known to be generous to a fault on many an occasion.

All I can say to Martin Horwood is that I had not realised that my writing was that large, as he has obviously seen what I am about to say. The story is totally different in other parts of the UK. In Wales, there has been a significant and substantial reduction in the disease, with decline at twice the rate of that in England. That has been achieved without culling but with badger vaccination and stringent measures on cattle that have been handled properly. In Northern Ireland, bovine TB is declining at a faster rate than in the south, where culling is taking place. As the hon. Gentleman has said, in Scotland we are fortunate—I shall put it no more strongly than that—to be clear of bovine TB, but we are not complacent and tight biosecurity is in place.

My hon. Friend Angela Smith is absolutely correct that this is about biosecurity and vaccination. Whether Members will accept it or not, there is a small army of volunteers who want to engage with farmers and others to try to eradicate the disease through a vaccination scheme.

Professor Rosie Woodroffe, a leading badger ecologist, questioned the licence extensions and their potential to increase the spread of TB through perturbation. She said that going from six to 14 weeks, as happened in the Gloucestershire cull area, was uncharted territory—so it is about things being seen to be done rather than about grappling with the issue. In November, she said:

“It is not unreasonable to expect that as you prolong the cull and you prolong increased badger movement, you increase the detrimental effects.”

In December, she said:

“It’s very likely that so far this cull will have increased the TB risk for cattle inside the Gloucestershire cull zone rather than reducing it…Culling low numbers of badgers, over a prolonged period, during these winter months, are all associated with increased TB.”

I hope that those who are now thinking seriously about what has happened will realise that it is an issue not of crying over spilt milk but of seeing that we have it wrong and asking about the scale on which we have it wrong. I hope that Members will support the consideration of vaccination and tight biosecurity so that we can make some moves towards eradicating this terrible disease from our countryside.