Alan Whitehead

Labour MP for Southampton Test



I am fully against badger culling and I believe that if there is an alternative to slaughtering animals we should always choose it.

The Government’s cull has been a catastrophic failure for farmers, taxpayers and wildlife. It is a humiliation for the government, who have turned their backs on evidence-based policy. I have consistently voted against the cull in the House of Commons.

When the cull was initially postponed in October 2012, Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson repeatedly stated that the delay was necessary as they could not guarantee removing 70% of the badger population. Defra’s recent pilot culls in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset, both failed to achieve their own success criteria of culling 70% of badgers in 6 weeks; and against scientific advice the government extended both culls, only to fail again in achieving their target of removing 70% of the population. Furthermore the leaked IEP shows Defra failed to meet its main test for humanness that no more than 5% of badger would take more than five minutes to die. The IEP found the actual figure was between 6.4% and 18%.

Not only have the pilot culls been incredibly ineffective; they may have actually increased Bovine TB in and around the pilot areas. According to leading independent scientists the decision to extend the cull and their failure to cull 70% of the population may have increased the spread of Bovine TB through badger ‘perturbation’:

“It's very likely that so far this cull will have increased the TB risk for cattle inside the Gloucestershire cull zone rather than reducing it. Culling low numbers of badgers, over a prolonged period, during these winter months, are all associated with increased TB.” Professor Rosie Woodroffe of RCBT, December 2013

Defra undertook surveys and estimates of local badger populations which have been inaccurate, and the revision of population numbers has had little explanation as to the rationale behind it. Badger population estimates repeatedly failed to adequately estimate the size of the badger population in the pilot areas.
Additionally, the government has not been upfront about the full cost of the pilot culls to the taxpayer, which has never been announced. The government has been secretive and lacking transparency on the true costs of these extended culls. One of the supposed benefits of culling badgers over vaccinating them was that it was cheaper. Some estimates now cite that the cost of the cull has spiralled to become more expensive than a vaccination programme. The Bow Group, a Conservative think-tank, estimated the costs of the cull a £4,121 per badger killed. Despite these high costs the Government are determined to pursue further culls without significantly addressing how these culls will be paid for.

Vaccination is the most humane way of dealing with Bovine TB. For instance, the Welsh Natural Resources and Food Minister, Alun Davies AM has stated the Welsh Government’s vaccination led strategy has shown “significant and substantial” reductions in incidences of TB and that Wales was “bearing down” on the disease at “twice the rate of decline across the border”. (Wales Online, 7th March 2014)

But even if vaccination was problematic, alternatives ways of reducing transmission between cattle and wildlife are available - something which should be explored considering the effectiveness of culling is questionable. 

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