JUNIOR DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw and shadow animal health and welfare spokesman Owen Paterson are embroiled in a dispute over laws governing the issuing of badger culling licences.

In a flurry of written exchanges Mr Paterson has accused Mr Bradshaw of a “de facto repeal of Section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, without an announcement in Parliament”.

This section of the Act gives permission for the government to grant licences to cull badgers to prevent the spread of disease.

Mr Paterson has asked Mr Bradshaw for a statement to the house explaining his handling of the growing bovine tuberculosis crisis.

Mr Paterson said he was becoming “increasingly perplexed and concerned” as to why one Devon farmer, Tony Yewdall, was not granted a licence to kill the badgers on his farm.

There was a strong justification to do so in line with the original act, he said.

In reply, Mr Bradshaw said that he was “surprised at [Mr Paterson‘s] support for granting licences in the absence of scientific evidence that such a move would be helpful”.

The culling of badgers in the reactive badger culling trials had shown that culling the animals made matters worse, not better, he added.

He has now accused Mr Paterson of a “policy change on the part of the official opposition” as it was a Conservative government that introduced the Badger Act. 

A DEFRA spokesman said the law had not been changed, but there was no evidence to suggest culling badgers would prevent the spread of disease.