Following months of hard campaigning, on Thursday 25th October MPs voted overwhelmingly to abandon the Government’s controversial badger cull.
Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, led a cross-party coalition of MPs in the debate over the controversial issue of culling badgers to control TB in cattle, frequently reminding those present of the lack of science to support this misguided policy. Dozens of MPs spoke passionately on the issue but ultimately the motion to stop the cull passed by 147 votes to just 28. The vote comes after Defra announced a delay of the planned cull until next summer as a result of problems with badger numbers and will be seen as a fatal blow to Defra Secretary Owen Patterson’s plans.
Team Badger, a coalition of animal welfare groups opposed to the cull, garnered several mentions during the debate as it was the 160,000 signatures on the Team Badger petition which led to the issue reaching Parliament. Network for Animals, a member of Team Badger, participated in their combined campaigning and parliamentary efforts to ensure the issue remained high on the political agenda in addition to funding badger vaccination projects in the cull zones.
Brian Davies, Founder of Network for Animals, said, “We are delighted that a powerful coalition of MPs were able to defeat the Government on this issue. The mishandling of this disgraceful policy is symptomatic of an ‘ineptocracy’ operating with scant regard for our precious wildlife. We applaud the delay and will continue to work with other organisations to ensure sustainable, effective alternatives are implemented instead.”
The need for science-led alternatives to the cull was a key theme in the debate, with many MPs stressing the importance of introducing cattle vaccination in conjunction with the associated tests for differentiating between infected and vaccinating cattle as a long-term solution. Improved biosecurity and improvements in cattle husbandry were also identified as critical areas that needed to be looked at to solve the TB problem.
Christina Dixon, Campaigner at Network for Animals, said, “We would like to thank the thousands of people who wrote to their MPs and signed the petition in order to get this debate to happen. It is a great example of people power in action!”
Although the vote is not legally binding, a decision to press ahead with the policy would mean the Government face accusations of ignoring the will of Parliament.
*Photographs of Artful Badger by Martin Usborne