It is an honour to serve with you in the Chair, Mrs Main. I thank Dr Monaghan for securing this timely debate.
Animal rights and welfare is an issue I am very passionate about. The culling of badgers to prevent the spread of diseases is not a new concept and has gone on across Europe since the ’70s, but it was largely abandoned in the UK during the 1980s and is now completely prohibited in many European countries. The 10-year randomised badger culling trial, which started in 1998, demonstrated the ineffectiveness of culling, but despite the evidence the Government implemented a full programme.
The absurdity of such a process is that it directly contravenes the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which prohibits the wilful killing or injuring of a badger. Badger culling has time and again proven ineffective. Arguments against culling are not only emotive but factual: it is expensive, with the Government’s own figures showing it will cost more than it saves; it is not proven to work in any substantial or sustainable way; and Lord Krebs, who led the culling trials of the ’90s, has opposed further culling on the grounds that it is ineffective.
The Welsh Labour Government have rejected the culling of badgers as a means of controlling and eradicating bovine TB. However, as a rural country Wales is not without its problems in this area, and in a bid to control the spread of TB in 2012 the Welsh Government began a badger vaccination programme. That work has been targeted at an intensive action area, which has some of the highest incidence of bovine TB in Europe. Although the effectiveness of vaccination remains disputed, it is surely a better option than the equally disputed, and much more contentious, process of inhumane killing.
I am appalled that the current UK Government have not only ignored evidence, fierce campaigning and the experience of some devolved regions, but have actually taken the notion of culling even further, recently extending the programme to seven new areas across England. I urge the Government to reconsider their commitment to badger culling. How can the random slaughter of one animal to protect another ever be justifiable, logical or humane?