Huw Irranca-DaviesHuw Irranca-Davies ©David Hartley/Rex

The Labour Party has defended its pledge to end badger culling as a means of combating bovine TB in cattle.

The promise is contained in Labour’s manifesto – launched this week ahead of next month’s general election on 7 May.

See also: Labour pledges farm strategy and end to badger cull

“We will build on our strong record on animal welfare – starting with an end to the government’s ineffective and cruel badger cull,” says the document.”

It adds: “We will improve the protection of dogs and cats, ban wild animals in circuses, defend the hunting ban and deal with wildlife crime associated with shooting.”

Labour farm spokesman Huw Irranca-Davies, told Farmers Weekly there would be “no badger culling” if the party forms the next government.

Instead, the government would focus on developing an effective vaccine and continue with cattle-based measures, which were already helping to reduce bovine TB.

Measures will include increased animal testing and livestock movement restrictions.

“These policies are already paying dividends without hitting the wildlife reservoir,” said Mr Irranca-Davies, who is seeking re-election as MP for Ogmore, south Wales.

Pilot badger culls introduced by the coalition government in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset were unscientific and had been “catastrophic failures,” he added.

The Labour Party agreed with 95% of the coalition government’s policies to combat bovine TB. But it “fundamentally disagreed” with badger culling.

“Where we fundamentally disagree is the badger cull and the reason is that we genuinely want to go with the evidence,” said Mr Irranca-Davies.

A successful vaccine against bovine TB was likely to involve an oral bait, rather than being injectible and a Labour government would have an “open door to farmers” to make it work.

Liberal Democrats have promised to support badger culling only if it is show to be humane, effective and safe.

Defra secretary Liz Truss, who is seeking re-election as Conservative MP for south-west Norfolk, described Labour’s anti-cull stance as irresponsible.

A Tory government would do “whatever it takes” to eradicated bovine TB and would press ahead with its strategy to rid Britain of the disease within 25 years, she said.

“We are the only party committed to continuing with the bovine TB strategy – including vaccination in the edge zones, cattle movement controls and culling where the disease is rife.”

Ms Truss added: “Bovine TB poses a serious threat to our dairy and beef industry and it is important that we eradicate this disease.”