Badger Hero - Mary Creagh, M.P.

On 27 February 2013

Mary Creagh MP,
who was Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary,
responded to Defra’s announcement that the badger cull
would go ahead in the summer.

This is what she said,

“The Government is pressing ahead with a badger cull despite scientists warning against this “untested and risky approach”.

“As incompetent Defra Ministers stagger from one crisis to the next, the policing costs, paid by the taxpayer will balloon to £4 million while bovine TB will increase in the next 2 years as the shooting displaces badgers. Ministers should listen to the public and the scientists and drop this cull before any more public money is wasted.”

Following a request from B-R-A-V-E,
Mary Creagh, MP, sent this article for publication.

"Badger Cull is a Shot in the Dark"

Photo by Shlurder (Own work) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

The public and the scientists are united in their opposition to the badger cull. The Government’s determination to push ahead with a cull flies in the face of the evidence and public opinion.

In October 2012, an extraordinary coalition of leading scientists wrote to the Observer, calling on the Government to stop the badger cull. They stated:

“As scientists with expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife diseases, we believe the complexities of TB transmission mean licensed culling risks increasing cattle TB rather than reducing it.”

Lord Krebs, the eminent Oxford scientist who instigated Labour's cull trial (RBCT), described it as “mindless.”

When pressed as to whether the cull would work, the Government’s current Chief Scientist Prof Sir John Beddington gave a classic ‘Yes Minister’ answer-

“I am content that the evidence base, including uncertainties and evidence gaps, has been communicated effectively to ministers."

That reply speaks volumes.

Bovine TB is a terrible disease and Labour wants it brought under control. In 2011 26,000 cattle were slaughtered, costing us £90 million in testing and compensation. In Government, Labour set up the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT). A £50m, 10 year study on whether culling badgers reduces bovine TB concluded that:

"The reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results … suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain."

Labour's approach in government was led by that science. We continue to be led by science. We spent £11 million developing a badger vaccine. Yet the Tory-led government cancelled 5 of the 6 vaccine trials and continues to cut the research budget for bovine TB.

The Government have stated their intention to start culling this summer. A cull will be bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife. Official advice is that it will cost more than it saves, put a huge strain on police and will spread bovine TB in the short-term as badger populations are disrupted by the shooting.

The Government should follow the Welsh Assembly Government and go for badger vaccination and stronger biosecurity. We should build alliances in the EU to get restrictions on vaccinating cattle lifted.

© Toby Houlton Photography 2011 and Beyond

We need to keep pressure on Ministers. More than 150,000 people signed the e-petition against the cull but we need to maintain the momentum of the campaign. Write to your local MP to remind them how important this issue is, and support the campaign groups making the case for a humane solution to bovine TB. MPs are split on this issue and must be reminded how strongly the public oppose a cull.

We will not let the Government off the hook. In Parliament my Labour colleagues and I will keep the heat on Ministers. We will keep the spotlight focussed on them in Parliament to explain what they’re doing and why. We will work to expose the weakness of their arguments.

The Government should stop, listen to the scientists, and abandon the cull. Bovine TB is a terrible disease that must be stopped. This cull is not the way to do it.

In 2013 Mary Creagh was Labour's shadow environment secretary.

B-R-A-V-E is grateful to Mary for taking the time and trouble to write for us.


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