A badger cull is set to go ahead this summer after a Labour bid to derail the government’s policy was defeated in Parliament.
Following a fiery debate in the House of Commons on the badger cull on Wednesday (5 June), a Labour motion calling on the pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset to be abandoned was rejected by a clear majority of MPs.
MPs voted in favour of the cull by 299 votes to 250, securing a win for the government by 49 votes.
Speaking after the vote, the NFU said the vote “settled once and for all” the political debate about the cull and two pilot areas should continue unhindered.
NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “Today’s vote is a ringing endorsement of the comprehensive strategy to bear down on TB and rid our countryside of this disease.
“Farmers are doing all they can to help prevent TB in cattle through rigorous testing of cattle, movement controls and biosecurity measures.
“But as many MPs said in today’s debate, until we have a comprehensive strategy that bears down on the disease in wildlife, this disease will continue to run out of control.”
The Country Land and Business Association said MPs were right to vote in favour of a badger cull to tackle bovine TB.
CLA president Harry Cotterell said: “We welcome today’s vote in favour of a badger cull which is so crucial for farming businesses and rural communities.
“It is vital that badger control is implemented quickly to reduce the spread of bovine TB which saw 28,000 cattle needlessly slaughtered (in England) last year.
“Evidence has shown that badger control, as part of the government’s package of measures, is essential in the management of this terrible disease.”
However, Labour and anti-badger cull supporters vowed to fight on and continue their battle to stop the cull.
Shadow DEFRA secretary Mary Creagh said it was “disappointing” news that the government would press ahead with a badger cull, which will “cost more than tha it saves and will spread bovine TB in the short term as badgers are disturbed by the shooting.”
Ms Creagh added: “The policing costs alone, to be paid by the taxpayer, will balloon to £4 million for just the two pilot culls. Ministers should listen to the scientists and reject this cull which is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife.”
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “We fight on. This vote flies in the face of scientific and public opinion.
“We are grateful to those MPs who spoke out against the cull and particularly those who defied the government’s three-line whip.
“There can be little doubt that had MPs been free to express their views through a free vote there would have been a large majority against the cull as there was last October.”
Mr Grant added: “The only real way forward is the vaccination of both cattle and badgers, better biosecurity and control of cattle movements.”
The debate followed a report issued by a cross-party of MPs – the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee – which said more investment was urgently needed into vaccination as a solution for bovine TB.
But EFRA committee chairman and Conservative MP Anne McIntosh said: “We should use every tool in the box to combat this disease, but vaccination alone will not, at least in the short term, provide a complete solution.”