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Parliamentary Vote Opposes Badger Cull Proposal

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There are three principle reasons why I was one of those Members to ask a House of Commons business scheduling committee for a debate on the proposed badger cull and why spoke and voted against a cull in the debate I secured on the floor of the House last Thursday.

Firstly, I believe a badger cull would be damaging to wildlife.

Secondly, the science suggests that a cull is unnecessary and that there are more effective solutions.

Thirdly, and most importantly, evidence points that a cull would not significant reduce the incidents on bovine tuberculosis and therefore would not be of benefit to cattle herds and the agricultural industry across the country.

Bovine TB is a very real and devastating issue for many farmers and it is vital we find an effective long term measure to eradicate this disease.

I therefore welcome the government's announcements on improving cattle testing, movement controls and biosecurity. However, the most reliable scientific evidence suggests badger culling is a short-term, unsustainable and ultimately ineffective approach.

Allowing the shooting of free-ranging badgers in TB affected areas is an untested and dangerous move. Which I believe has no place in a science-led policy. Indeed, rather than solving the problem, it risks making matters worse by disrupting their social structures leading badgers to spread into new areas.

Licensing the shooting of one of our best loved native species has also, unsurprisingly, generated considerable public opposition.

Vaccination of both badgers and cattle, together with enhanced cattle testing and improved biosecurity measures, is the publicly acceptable, and ultimately effective long-term solution.

After 10 years work the Independent Scientific Group concluded in 2007 that : "badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain."

The significant scientific doubt over a badger cull effectiveness and strong evidence that it might actually make incidents of bovine TB worse I believe means we need to urgently reconsider the killing of badgers until the comparatively enormous reservoir of disease in herds is cleared and to introduce compulsory annual testing of all cattle with the more sophisticated techniques now available.

Bovine TB is a serious problem for UK farmers, deserving the highest standard of evidence-based management. Increasingly that is why many farmers are against the cull too.

By increasing biosecurity - something that British agriculture has not properly addressed for decades and has been to the massive detriment of farming, our economy and animal welfare - we can reduce bovine TB.

By increasing vaccination in badgers and cattle we can prevent the unnecessarily killing this much loved British wildlife species.

And by increased testing we can ensure that our agricultural industry recovers from this most damaging disease.

I welcome the vote which saw 147 MPs, including myself, vote against a badger cull and only 28 in favour of one.