POLITICS
18/10/2011 10:09 BST | Updated 18/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Simon Hart, Conservative MP, Thinks Culling Plan 'Good For Badgers'

Shooting tuberculosis-infected badgers is good for other badgers, an MP has said. 

Conservative Simon Hart believed a cull of the disease-riddled animals would help infection-free badgers thrive. Speaking as MPs debated Government plans for a pilot cull to cut bovine tuberculosis (TB), Mr Hart said: "The Government is absolutely right to draw a line under this and say 'enough is enough'.

"It is right for farmers, it is right for taxpayers, it is right for cattle, it is right for businesses and it is actually right for badgers. I find it quite frustrating that so little attention has been devoted to the welfare of badgers."

The Government plans to allow farmers and landowners to cull badgers at their own expense in a bid to tackle the disease in herds, which led to the slaughter of 25,000 cattle - and huge compensation payouts from taxpayers to farmers - in England last year.

Further consultations will be held before a widespread cull is brought in, but the Government plans to pilot culling in two areas, to test the "controlled shooting" of free-running badgers. The Coalition estimates policing the culls will cost £200,000 a year.

Tory James Gray told the Westminster Hall debate that a farmer in his North Wiltshire constituency saw up to 40 TB-infected badgers "staggering around" his farmyard. "Those badgers would not be helped even if we had a vaccine, because they are ill badgers," he said. "The only sensible way to destroy them is by shooting them."

Labour's Andrew Miller, who chairs the Commons' Science and Technology Select Committee, said a cull along England's border with Wales would be difficult to enforce when the Welsh Government had blocked a planned badger killing programme.

Labour's Mary Glindon for North Tyneside, who led the debate, called for the Government to speed up development of a vaccine rather than pursue a cull. "Culling is not the answer," she said. "Sound scientific evidence has told us we must move in a different direction."

Meanwhile shadow environment minister Huw Irranca-Davies branded a cull "untested and risky". But Agriculture Minister Jim Paice hit back saying doing nothing should not be an option.

He said: "We are having two pilots to establish whether it is effective, whether you can cull 70% of badgers over a six-week period and whether it is humane."