It is important to appreciate that Bovine TB can have a significant impact on farmers in terms of loss of stock. It is therefore vital this disease is brought under control and that farmers are fairly compensated for any cattle that has to be culled to control the spread of Bovine TB.
However, I oppose the culling of badgers because I do not believe it is an effective way of managing the disease. Indeed, a 2007 report concluded that badger culls could make no meaningful contribution to reducing Bovine TB. In fact, evidence suggests that disturbed remaining badger populations can spread Bovine TB further.
The Government has recently authorised culling of badgers in 21 areas across England which could see up to 33,000 badgers being killed. Earlier this year over 108,000 people signed a petition to Parliament calling on the Government to end the badger cull instead of expanding it to new areas so I am disappointed that the Government has not listened. In my view it is both an inefficient and inhumane way of tackling bovine TB.
I believe we need a new approach and I have long supported an alternative, science-led strategy which prioritises development of a vaccine together with improved cattle testing and cattle management, tighter biosecurity measures, and improved animal husbandry. It remains the case that culling has taken place over many decades, yet has not successfully eradicated the disease.
While it is welcome that the Government is pursuing other measures such as tighter cattle controls, biosecurity, and the design of a new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (subject to a global shortage of the vaccine), I believe that the Government must end the culling of badgers.
The Labour manifesto at the 2017 general election promised to end the badger cull and although Labour lost the election I will continue to oppose the culling of badgers and press for long-term solutions to end Bovine TB.