MPs to debate future of badger cull in England

MPs will discuss the future of the badger cull in England in a cross-party debate scheduled for this Thursday (13 March).

Anne Main, Conservative MP for St Albans in Hertfordshire, who is opposed to her government’s own policy, secured the full debate, which will take place in the main chamber of the House of Commons.

The debate, to be followed by a vote, is expected to begin about 11.45am.

See also Analysis: where next for the badger cull?

It will give MPs an opportunity to challenge government plans to roll out badger culling to new areas this year.

DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson said he remains committed to the cull , despite leaked reports that the pilots in the West Country were ineffective and inhumane.

Mr Paterson said he would make a final decision over whether to roll the cull out more widely following the publication this spring of the Independent Expert Panel’s (IEP) findings into last autumn’s pilots in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

The League Against Cruel Sports said it was possible the government could announce two new cull zones in early April, initiating the national roll-out of the cull.

In Thursday’s debate, opponents of the cull will call on the government to “pause, reflect and adapt its policy for tackling bovine TB” following reports that the pilots were ineffective.

A leaked report by the BBC has suggested the IEP will report back that the pilots, which trialled free shooting of badgers by marksmen, were ineffective and inhumane. However, there were apparently no safety issues.

According to the BBC, the report will say that marksmen removed less than half of the estimated numbers of badgers over six weeks in both pilot areas. It also appears to show that 5% of badgers culled took longer than five minutes to die – failing the test for humaneness.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Ms Main said: “I have a great sympathy for farmers on this difficult issue and believe something has to be done to tackle bovine TB.

“However this needs to be an effective policy and the pilot culls have failed on all of the government’s own criteria, including humaneness.

“I cannot support an ineffective policy that condones the inhumane killing of a protected species and does not deliver on an effective way of tackling bovine TB.”

She added: “Given the specific underperformance of the pilot badger culls, I feel it is imperative the government listens to the IEP findings and reflects on the concerns of thousands of people across the UK.

“In the meantime, I do not believe the government should allow more licences to be granted until members have considered, debated, and voted on the motion before the House.”