Liz Truss appeared unconfident during lengthy questioning on DEFRA's bTB strategy at yesterday's EFRA cross-party committee meeting. Her responses were were familiarly jargon-filled and included increasingly constant references to the Chief Veterinary Officer, who the government is relying heavily on to spin their culling policy as credible. The job is becoming more difficult as many other top scientists speak out against the cull, being clear that it is not going to solve the problem of bTB in cattle.
At various points Ms Truss stated "it is too early to say" whether the current strategy is having an effect, yet she is already on record as being committed to the programme rolling out to Devon next year. Likewise Conservative MPs Neil Parish and George Eustice both spoke anecdotally during the discussion about findings which as yet do not exist, clearly using hearsay as a basis to continue and expand badger culling.
It is concerning to note that another figure recently declaring the culls a success, despite no findings yet being publically available, is NFU president Meurig Raymond.
There is a worrying incongruity between the statements of availability of data on the cull, and the seeming likelihood of further rollout. It would come as no surprise to Network for Animals if the cull results were announced during the winter parliamentary recess as last year, to prevent deeper parliamentary questioning.
During yesterday's discussion, Ms Truss was also asked what evidence base she was using to determine the success of the current bTB strategy, and if she was looking to Wales, where a near 50% reduction in bTB in Cattle has been shown. All while increasing testing in cattle and not resorting to badger culling.
A Worrying Return To Hunting
After appearing uncomfortable discussing the issue of bTB, Liz Truss appeared far more confident on plans to amend the Hunting Act, which were suddenly withdrawn on 14th July amidst protest across the UK. She devastatingly stated that there were still plans to pursue this "as soon as parliamentary time is available". This is a fascinating piece of prioritisation, given the major budget cuts which DEFRA are currently facing.
Given the cloak and dagger behaviour surrounding the badger cull, and that surrounding the Hunting Act earlier in the year, we must be vigilant and prepared for anything that comes during the next four and a half years.
[box] Watch Liz Truss speak at the EFRA meeting [/box]