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Backbench Business — Badger Cull

Part of Royal Assent – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 13th March 2014.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton 4:18 pm, 13th March 2014

I had to wait all afternoon to speak, so I do not think that I will give way.

We have tried for 30 years to control bovine TB In this country, and all that we have seen is increase after increase. We cannot go on doing this for ever, because in the end we will not have a viable cattle herd, and we will not have the food security that we all seek. We must get to grips with this disease.

Finally, let me deal with the myth about what is and is not supposed to be happening in the Republic of Ireland. This is the point on which I really disagree with other Members. It is possible to argue that opossums may be slightly different from badgers in Ireland, but the differences between badgers in Ireland and badgers in Devon are very few. [Interruption.] I have listened throughout the afternoon to speeches from the Members who are interrupting, and I have remained very quiet. Perhaps Angela Smith will now listen to what I have to say.

Recent figures from Ireland show that TB infection levels have fallen by more than 45% since 2000. They are now slaughtering fewer than half the cattle they needed to some 10 years ago. This is a substantial reduction that the Irish Government believe their badger culling programme has significantly contributed to. The culling of badgers is the only significant difference between the current approaches taken in England and Ireland; the cattle restrictions and cattle movement orders are virtually the same. Last year 15,612 cattle tested positive in Ireland which represents a 15% reduction on the 2012 levels. The Irish Government have said TB eradication is now a practical proposition in Ireland after the latest figures show a substantial drop in reactor numbers in 2013.

I now quote from the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine:

“We believe that, while it is difficult to quantify the precise impact of badger culling on the reduction in the incidence of TB, much of the improvement in the TB situation is due to the badger removal programme.”

Therefore the Irish believe culling badgers has worked to reduce TB in the Republic of Ireland.

In a county such as the one I represent in Devon where over a quarter of the herds are restricted, where we are slaughtering 5,500 cattle a year and where probably about 40% of our badger population are infected with bovine TB, we have to take action not only in cleaning the cattle and having stricter cattle movements, but in making sure those badgers are clean so there is no TB in them If we do that, when we turn our cattle out, it will be safe to do so, and when we drink our milk it will be safe to do so. When our tourists come to Devon and Cornwall and the west country, they will come to see the beautiful herds of beef cattle, such as Devon reds grazing there, that are not infected by TB.