Shadow Defra secretary Kerry McCarthy joined a Wounded Badger Patrol in the Gloucestershire cull zone to give her support to anti-cull activists.
The vegan MP for Bristol East met up with members of the Gloucestershire Wounded Badger Patrol on Saturday (10 October).
She joined patrollers to hear about their experiences of looking for wounded badgers on the footpaths of west Gloucestershire during the cull.
The Gloucestershire cull started on 2 September and is due to end on Wednesday (14 October).
Miss McCarthy has made no secret of her opposition to the cull, branding it “inhumane and unscientific”.
Last month, in her first speech as shadow Defra secretary, Miss McCarthy said Labour would continue to oppose culling as a means of combating TB in cattle.
Badger cull targets
- Dorset: Minimum 615, maximum 835
- Gloucestershire: Minimum 265, maximum 679
- Somerset: Minimum 55, maximum 524
Speaking during her visit to the cull zone, Miss McCarthy told the BBC: “The average cost of culling a badger was £7,000 and most of those badgers would not have had TB – it’s about 60%
“If there was a vote in parliament now, the majority of parliamentarians would be voting against the badger cull because a lot of people who have listened to the science know that it is just not the right thing to do.”
But Gloucestershire farmer David Barton said there was anecdotal evidence that culling badgers appeared to be working to reduce TB levels in cattle, and he invited Miss McCarthy to see for herself the problems that TB has had on his farm – Manor Farm in Middle Duntisborne.
“There is one farmer [James Griffiths] with about 1,800 cattle who has had his third consecutive clear test after 11 years of being under restrictions,” said Mr Barton.
“He is in the cull zone. My neighbour unfortunately lost 22 cattle a couple of weeks ago. We are not in the cull zone, yet we are in Gloucestershire and there is a stark difference. That’s why we need to roll it out and move on with it.”
Jeanne Berry, spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting (Gabs), described Miss McCarthy’s visit as a “great morale booster” for patrollers.
She said: “We have raised many concerns over the past three years with the previous and current government [about the culls] as well as Natural England and Defra, but all to no avail.
“We hope that Miss McCarthy will be able to act as a direct link between people in the cull zone and members of the House of Commons when it meets again next week. It’s a great morale booster at this stage of this inhumane and ineffective cull.”
A spokeswoman for Miss McCarthy said: “Kerry would be very keen to meet with farmers and veterinary experts – as she did during the last parliament – to discuss more effective ways of tackling bovine TB, and the first of these meetings will be taking place soon.”
But Miss McCarthy’s visit has divided opinion on social media platforms.
It is a pleasure to welcome Kerry McCarthy MP, the Labour Shadow DEFRA Secretary of State out on Wounded Badger… http://t.co/HuvW0S3kjs
— G.A.B.S. (@GlosABS) October 10, 2015
— Joe Rich (@joerichlaw) October 12, 2015
The third year of the pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire are due to end this week. The first year of culling in Dorset, where the policy was rolled out to this year, is also due to end.
In Dorset, NFU county chairman Trevor Cligg told Farmers Weekly the culling operation had been successful.
He said: “The people on the ground say the culling operation has gone well and there has not been as much disruption as expected.
“They are pleased with how things have gone and would not be happy unless they had reached their targets.”
It is understood that Defra is planning to make an announcement on the end of the culls in the next 7-10 days.
However, when asked to comment on the culling operation and how it had fared, a spokesman declined to comment.
He said: “We will not be commenting on the badger culls for operational reasons.”
Farm minister George Eustice said: “England has the highest incidence of TB in Europe and that is why we are taking strong action to deliver our 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries.
“This includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, vaccinating badgers in the buffer zone around high-risk areas, and culling badgers where the disease is rife.
“Our approach of dealing with the disease in cattle and wildlife has worked overseas and is supported by leading vets.”