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I am on the record as having cautioned the Government about the roll-out of the two pilot cull projects.
I want to ground my comments on the evidence from the randomised badger culling trial. Some 15 years ago my constituency was selected as one of the triplets, so we had a proactive cull in part of the Penwith moors. I backed the cull because it was on the basis of evidence-based policy making. I followed with great interest the outcome of that research and its conclusions, which found that reactive culling had no part to play in the management of bovine TB in the livestock industry, and that proactive culling could have a meaningful impact only if carried out in a thorough manner that achieved a high level of cull consistently over a long period, which meant that it had to achieve a 70% cull rate within the hot spot areas and across a wide enough area. If the Government chose to adopt this policy, it was important that they did so in such a robust manner that it would have a real and demonstrable impact. My concern about their approach is that they wanted to do it in a manner that would not be at great expense to the public purse and therefore at the cost of the farmer, although of course the state had to step in to provide the support with policing costs, at great expense in the case of both the pilot culls. The outcome of this work ran the high risk of making the situation significantly worse.
That is why, as a result of looking at the Government’s proposal, I proposed in my constituency the introduction of a community-led badger vaccination programme across a wide area—200 sq km. We are going to roll this out significantly later this year on the Penwith peninsula, working closely with the Zoological Society of London, which has now decided to take on a management role in it. Professor Rosie Woodroffe, who has been mentioned several times already, will be taking the lead on the project having originally been involved in the independent scientific group overseeing the randomised badger culling trials.