Member of Parliament for Hackney South and Shoreditch. Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
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Many of you have contacted me to raise your concerns over the proposed badger cull. On Tuesday 23 October, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Rt Hon Owen Paterson announced that the highly controversial badger cull will be delayed until the summer.
On Thursday 25 October, another debate on the badger cull was held and led by the Backbench Business Committee. This was in response to over 150,000 people signing the e-petition calling for an abandonment of the cull. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the debate or the vote due to longstanding commitments in the constituency. However, MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion, 147 in favour to 28 against, which called for the use of vaccination, improved testing and tighter biosecurity. Although this vote is not legally binding, it sends a clear signal to the Government for the abandonment, not postponement, of the cull.
I support a science-led approach to tackling bovine TB. From 1998-2007 there was a £50 million randomised badger culling trial (RBCT) which remains the most extensive scientific study on whether culling badgers reduces bovine TB. A further £11 million was spent on researching and developing a badger BCG.
The consequences of bovine TB can be devastating and I agree that it must be controlled. However, I do not think that the badger cull is the right way to do it. Instead, the Government should follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly and switch its focus to vaccination and biosecurity. Also, we should work to build alliances in the EU to get restrictions on vaccinating cattle lifted, so that both cattle and badgers can be vaccinated against bovine TB.
I will raise this issue with Rt Hon Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and when I receive a reply I will update this section of my website.