I know that many local people are very concerned about the current Government's continued support for badger culling.
I oppose culling because I believe it is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife. The previous Labour Government spent £50 million on a ten-year randomised badger culling trial which concluded culling will not work to achieve a lasting reduction in Bovine TB and actually risks making things worse, particularly for farmers in neighbouring areas.
As you know, the current Government commenced culls in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset on 27 August 2013. The initial six week cull in both areas was extended after failing to meet the 70% culling targets. The Independent Expert Panel (IEP), appointed to monitor the effectiveness, humanness and safety of the controlled shooting, concluded that the two pilot badger culls had also failed on both the effectiveness and humaneness tests.
However, the Government ignored the scientific evidence by proceeding with a second year of badger culls in September and October 2014. The IEP was not asked to oversee the second year of the pilot culls and was subsequently disbanded by the Government.
It is now clear the Government has wasted millions of pounds on a badger cull which is unscientific, inhumane and ineffective. I supported a motion in the House of Commons on 13 March 2014 which called on the Government to stop the culls, to not grant any further culling licences and to develop alternative strategies to eradicate the scourge of Bovine TB.
It is appalling that the Government allowed the second year of these culls to go ahead when they had already been described as an 'epic failure' by the former Chief Scientific Advisor to Natural England. I share concerns about reports that the current Government now plans to initiate further culls this summer.
The current Government has wilfully ignored the evidence and I believe is more concerned with killing badgers than with controlling TB. I believe the Government must abandon its failed policy on Bovine TB control and believe that we need an alternative approach that includes prioritising badger and cattle vaccinations and bringing in stricter cattle measures.
I am therefore pleased my Shadow Frontbench colleagues have stated that a future Labour Government would end the Government's ineffective and inhumane badger culls. The next Labour Government will work with scientists, wildlife groups and farmers to develop an alternative strategy to control Bovine TB which puts scientific evidence at the heart of policy.