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Backbench Business — Badger Cull

Part of Royal Assent – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 13th March 2014.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:45 pm, 13th March 2014

I am going to run out of time and I want to leave time for Mrs Main.

On effectiveness, we have already published the numbers of badgers that were culled in both Somerset, where it was 940, and Gloucester, where it was 921. Nic Dakin invited me to speculate on what the effect on the population might have been from the recent flooding. One lesson that we have learnt is that it is difficult precisely to estimate badger populations. The RBCT did not use head trapping of the sophistication that we did, rather it used things like sett surveys, and there is a huge amount of doubt about whether it had a clear understanding of the badger population.

A number of hon. Members, including Angela Smith have highlighted that the RBCT concluded that the aim should be to remove 70% of the badger population. We accept that and that is why we had that as a target. However, it is wrong to say that if that target is not hit in the first year, the disease will be made worse. The RBCT clearly showed that three of the 10 test areas where there was a proactive cull got between 30% and 40% in year one, but provided that was sustained in subsequent years, it went on to have a significant impact in reducing the disease.

Finally, on the humaneness issue, I know that this is a sentimental matter for many people. In fact, Mr Sheerman highlighted the poem “The Badger”. All I will say is that I hope that hon. Members can develop some perspective, because shooting is used as a means of controlling foxes and all sorts of other wildlife. If hon. Members were to go to Bushy park or Richmond park in September and October, they would find signs up saying that a cull of deer was going on and so the park was closed. No one would bat an eyelid. I hope that we can develop some perspective—