UK Remains Committed to TB Eradication Plan, Despite Backbench Vote Against Badger Cull

UK - The National Farmers' Union has said yesterday’s backbench bench business debate was a good opportunity for MPs to discuss the government’s bovine tuberculosis (TB) eradication programme, which includes a cull of badgers.
calendar icon 26 October 2012
clock icon 3 minute read
National Farmers Union

A vote of 147 to 28 MPs saw the motion carried “That this House notes the e-petition on the planned badger cull, which has gathered more than 150,000 signatures; and calls on the Government to stop the cull and implement the more sustainable and humane solution of both a vaccination programme for badgers and cattle, along with improved testing and biosecurity.” Of the 37 MPs that spoke 18 were in favour of the motion, 19 were against.

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond listened to the debate from the public gallery and said the result was disappointing.

“This debate offered a fresh opportunity for the serious issue of bovine TB to be re-examined”, said Mr Raymond.

“This is a hugely complex issue and I understand that people have strong views, he said. “However the NFU remains committed to supporting the government’s TB eradication programme for England, and the inclusion of a badger cull in those areas where TB is persistent and high. Let me explain why.

“TB is one of the biggest single threats to our beef and dairy farms. To be successful, all of the most recent science shows that tackling TB needs a comprehensive programme of measures that attacks this terrible disease from all sides. And the key conclusions in the 2011 report from the meeting of scientific experts says that reducing badger numbers will help to reduce TB in cattle by an average of 16 per cent.

“As was mentioned during today’s debate we already have in place tight cattle control measures and increased bio-security on farms. Additional cattle testing will also be in place by January and we currently cull all cattle that test positive for TB. This meant 34,000 cattle were slaughtered before the end of their productive life in Great Britain last year alone. Farmers are doing everything they can to protect their herds from TB but in the meantime the disease continues unchecked in the surrounding wildlife.

“We know from the evidence that exists that no other country in the world has got on top of TB with cattle control measures alone when the disease has a stronghold in the wildlife as it does in England. So we do need to tackle the reservoir of TB in badgers, the proven source of TB infection in cattle.

“Let me be clear. We have to begin to control this disease now. TB is getting worse not better, cattle being slaughtered are doubling in number every nine years. While the vaccination of cattle and badgers will have a part to play, again we have heard today that we are years away from either making a significant contribution to reducing the prevalence and spread of TB. We do need to continue to invest in research for a workable cattle vaccine and an oral vaccine for badgers too but while we sit and wait we condemn tens of thousands of cattle to death every year and farmers and their families to untold misery.

“Including badger controls, as part of the current TB policy, is regrettable but absolutely necessary if we are to start now to control TB and ultimately eradicate the disease from our beef and dairy herds once and for all.”

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